Decatur homeless population triples in past year, according to non-profit

WAFF's Megan Plotka reporting
Published: Aug. 18, 2023 at 12:19 PM CDT

DECATUR, Ala. (WAFF) - In Decatur, non-profit leaders say they’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of homeless people in the city.

Hands Across Decatur’s Executive Director Sue Terrell says she saw the population triple in the last year alone. The non-profit’s free lunch service has seen a large increase. Last year, it fed an average of 15 people two days a week, now they average about 40 to 65 five days a week.

She says she’s seeing a large increase in specifically women and transient homeless people.

She attributes this to three main causes. Housing is becoming more and more unaffordable, she’s seeing rental options rise upwards of $1,000 a month. Plus, there are fewer section eight housing options, because landlords are able to opt out of the program. Terrell adds that it’s almost impossible to live in a housing authority apartment. There’s a year-and-a-half-long waiting list and applicants must have an I.D., address, income, and clean eviction and felony record.

“I don’t see any relief coming up, because there is still nowhere for them to go,” says Terrell. “They may get trespassed from one homeless camp, and they just pick up and go someplace else. Are they trespassing? Yea, they’re trespassing, let’s be honest, they’re trespassing. But where will they go?”

She tries to offer several resources to help with the pains that come with being homeless. Along with lunches, they have hot showers and a place to get out of the hot during the day. Plus, a doctor makes monthly visits to the center.

Dr. Robert Allen treats Hands Across Decatur’s clients once a month. He treats about 15 to 30 people each visit. Terrell says many of her clients suffer from diabetes, asthma, or COPD.

WAFF's Megan Plotka reporting

He also identifies and treats infections.

“The difference is we (housed people) have insurance, family, food, housing, and employment that’s made to watch over us and take care of us,” says Terrell. “What bigger stress to be homeless, and to be homeless without medication, without family, without food; It just deteriorates from there.”

The doctor will be in on Aug. 19.

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