- Cullman, Alabama

January 27, 2007

Homeless get help

by Nancy Glasscock

A homeless woman making her way on foot down Fourth Avenue Friday evening said she hoped to make it to Georgia by nightfall.

The woman was dressed in layers, and temperatures were expected to fall to the mid 20s Friday night.

“This afternoon, she just walked right through the middle of Cullman,” said Donna Jacobs, a spokeswoman for Victims Services in Cullman.

Jacobs said keeping track of how many homeless people are in Cullman County will allow the Department of Housing and Urban Development to obtain more money to aide homeless people. The Alabama Rural Coalition for the Homeless is conducting a homeless person count beginning Monday and ending Feb. 9.

The ARCH is an organization of homeless service providers, including Victims Services, from 43 rural counties in Alabama.

“In order for us to get money that is mandated for the communities, we have to participate in these homeless counts,” Jacobs said. “So, it will help us to have money available that we can apply for, for transitional housing and that sort of thing. It will also just give people a better idea of what’s going on in the community.”

According to the ARCH, those counted will include anyone in emergency shelters, transitional housing, on the street, in abandoned cars and buildings, and places not fit for human habitation. About $2.4 million allocated for homeless aide in Alabama counties goes to other states because Alabama has not proven it needs the money, according to the ARCH.

A count of homeless people is done every year, but this year, Jacobs said the count has been “revamped,” and local churches, hotels and police have received information on how to document the number of homeless in the area. She said Cullman Police Chief Kenny Culpepper agreed to work with the group during the count by identifying areas where homeless people are frequently seen.

According to Homelessness Counts, the first national assessment of the number of homeless people in more than a decade, there are about 744,313 people homeless nationwide on a single night. According to the assessment,

‰ 56 percent of homeless people counted were living in shelters and transitional housing, and 44 percent were unsheltered;

‰ 59 percent of homeless people counted were single adults and 41 percent were people living in families;

‰ 23 percent of homeless people were reported as chronically homeless, meaning they were disabled and had been homeless for long periods of time or repeatedly;

‰ Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington were the states with the highest ratio of homeless people per capita.

Anyone who knows of a homeless person or family, or who wants to volunteer to help with the count should contact Jacobs at 256-339-0868, Jacobs said.