What if there was a centralized location that housed all the agencies like Interfaith Ministries, Alabama Baptist Children’s Home, Salvation Army and others that address the needs of the homeless?
What if there was a system of triaging clients into services for job training or drug rehab or mental health treatment?
What if residents could make food, clothing and financial donations at one location and know that those resources would efficiently and effectively reach those in need?
What if the homeless could transition out of the shelter and into a tiny home village, maybe on the site of the former Cooper Homes?
What if Calhoun County became a model for how to pool its resources and eradicate homelessness?
A week ago, this Editorial Board asked those questions out of concern for the lack of options for Calhoun County’s homeless population. The next day, a giant step toward answering those questions was taken, thanks to the collaboration of three local nonprofit organizations.
The United Way of East Central Alabama, along with Interfaith Ministries and The Right Place, announced last week that they were awarded a $300,000 grant on Monday to establish a local shelter to house up to 45 homeless people.
According to United Way President Shannon Jenkins, the shelter will be more than a warming station. It will serve as a daily long-term shelter for up to 45 homeless people, and it will provide comprehensive services, including mental health care and case management, and it will be open to men and women and families in need. The shelter will likely be run by The Right Place.
The Salvation Army’s men’s shelter closed in February, and the Anniston City Council recently discussed converting the former community center/Boys & Girls Club in west Anniston’s Glen Addie community into a shelter that would serve as a warming station and an information center to direct the homeless to area services. Rather than lose $300,000 in federal funding, the city would spend that money to repair the roof and air conditioning system at the Glen Addie location.
Where the nonprofit homeless shelter will be located hasn’t been settled, but Jenkins said the Glen Addie building would be too small for what the nonprofits have in mind.
As mentioned in last week’s editorial, the residents and leaders of this community care deeply about our social ills. Our hope is that city officials will work with the nonprofits to add financial and intellectual resources to a common vision.
There’s not a timetable yet for when the shelter will be up and running. It won’t eliminate homelessness — at least not right away — but it takes a major step toward Calhoun County becoming a model for how to pool resources and address homelessness. It will mean fewer people sleeping in abandoned buildings; fewer people going hungry; fewer people wondering what the next day will bring.
According to taxexemptworld.com, Calhoun County has more than 700 nonprofit organizations, many of which seek to fix some of the same problems. Oftentimes they struggle individually to finance headquarters and provide resources while competing with each other to meet the same needs. Last weekend, for instance, there were three separate coat and clothes giveaways — two in Anniston and one in Oxford. During the Thanksgiving holidays, multiple organizations hosted separate events to feed the hungry.
“Groups do great things on their own, but when we come together, put our resources together, we can solve this problem that is huge,” said Interfaith Ministries’ April LaFollette in a Facebook video announcing the homeless shelter. “The opportunity to impact all those lives and to solve what is a problem in our community — WOW. It just makes me look forward to 2020 when we actually put all of this into place.”
This nonprofit collaboration to address homelessness by Interfaith Ministries, The Right Place and United Way shows what’s possible when nonprofits combine resources, set aside egos (not worrying about who’s in charge or who gets credit) and work together for a common cause. Let’s not only applaud them, but let us all — nonprofits, businesses, churches and individuals — remember to support them as this effort moves forward.