Homeless advocates see a surge in need for housing and food assistance

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - It’s been about two months since Thrive and Huntsville partnered together to test homeless populations throughout Northern Alabama. No cases of COVID were found during that check.

What has changed since that round of testing is the amount of people in the area.

Lineise Arnold from the North Alabama Coalition for the Homeless says she’s seen an influx of individuals from other counties coming to Huntsville looking for help. The problem is there are not many shelter or housing options for them right now.

Because of social distancing rules, shelters are not able to take as many people as usual. That’s not enough to house everyone, especially as the coalition continues to get calls from people seeking help.

One way to manage this influx of people is by finding an agency that will provide hotel vouchers, but Arnold says that’s been a challenge.

Overall, Arnold says low income and homeless communities may still be at risk of contracting COVID-19 but right now they are struggling to put food on the table and pay rent.

“We definitely see an increase in the individuals who are seeking food assistance through the Manna house food distribution center,” Arnold said. “We are having a whole lot more individuals come through each night. So there are people who are still suffering from the financial crisis that they were put in by the loss of income via cut hours or one person in the household may have been laid off.”

Arnold says there has not been a recent discussion about testing homeless populations in the area again. However, she says Thrive Alabama and Huntsville Hospital would most likely be willing to do more testing if they think it’s necessary.