Homeless population increasing drastically in Decatur due to COVID-19

One non-profit says in the last year, the homeless population has more than doubled

Homeless population more than doubling

DECATUR, Ala. (WAFF) - Unemployment rates skyrocketed at the beginning of the pandemic and remain high. Several people are feeling the effects of that right here in the Tennessee Valley.

“Due to the coronavirus, I had gotten laid off and I’ve been in survival mode,” Marvin Orr said.

For the last several months, Orr has been couch surfing and living in parks and camps.

His story is all too familiar to the volunteers at Hands Across Decatur, also known as HAD, a nonprofit aimed at empowering and helping the homeless get back on their feet.

”Last year at this time, we had on a regular basis about 25-50 homeless coming in a week. We fed them lunch. Since that time we’ve seen 80-100 a week,” Sue Terrell explained.

Terrell, Executive Director of HAD, says COVID-19 is greatly affecting homelessness here in Decatur.

Orr says he never thought he’d have to resort to HAD or other avenues just to survive.

”It was hard for me, I’m not gonna lie, it was hard for me. I’m usually making $700-$800 a week. Getting laid off, and I had no more money to cover me. It was hard for me to come here, I had to build my pride,” Orr explained.

HAD offers meals three times a week, clothing, and toiletries.

However, they too have struggled throughout this pandemic.

”Donations are down. Churches aren’t meeting, people are out of work, so the ties that they had to special organizations are not taking place,” Terrell said.

Terrell says volunteers are taking money out of their own pockets just to stay afloat, but will continue doing just that, so people stay full and have the resources needed.

If you need a temporary place to stay, the Salvation Army in Decatur is open from 4:30 p.m. to 7a.m.

The Tennessee Valley Outreach also has beds open for long-term stays.

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