Helping hands provide clothes and food to homeless vets - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Helping hands provide clothes and food to homeless vets

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Rusty provides clothes, water and food to homeless veterans. Rusty provides clothes, water and food to homeless veterans.

Advocates for the Huntsville area's homeless have been changing the emphasis in the supplies they bring the area's street people… to keeping them warm. 

The Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs says in 2012, there were about 800 homeless veterans in the state on any given night. In Huntsville, a 2011 report by the Department of Housing and Urban Development states about 714 homeless people were in an emergency shelter per night. Of that number, 93 were homeless veterans.

"Today, I spent all day handing out… I probably handed out 20 blankets, about 15 sleeping bags, probably 20, 30 jackets and hoodies and sweatshirts and stuff like that," said Rusty Loiselle of Help Our Homeless Veterans And Citizens,  "because I know it's going to get cold tonight."   

With forecasts for overnight conditions below freezing, Loiselle has been digging deep into cold weather supplies his group has been collecting since summer.

"Being out there in that kind of weather and then some of these people have literally the clothes on their backs," he said.

"It's not easy," agreed Rita Books, who lives on the street herself.  "All you can do is hope to get enough blankets to get covered up in your tent if you're fortunate enough to have one." 

Sharon Walker at Rose of Sharon Soup Kitchen said her organization is fresh out of cold weather gear and hoping to see donations as are homeless contend with potentially miserable, and dangerous conditions. "They struggle with frostbite, just trying to keep warm," she said.  "Some of them use propane heaters or kerosene heaters.  Sometimes they'll start a fire to stay warm. And obviously there's a lot of risks with all of those."

Said Loiselle, "They're very happy to get hoodies and coats.  I just gave away four comforters today and you would have thought that they won the lottery."

Loiselle says he too is running low on warmup gear and hoping big hearted are area residents will come through as they often do.  "There are so many compassionate people in Madison County," he said. "They flock to us and they say ‘we want to help the veterans.  We want to help the citizens.' And they give us hoodies and all kinds of things that help these people."  

You can visit Help Our Homeless Veterans and Citizens on Facebook. (

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