Gov. Kay Ivey announced Wednesday that she has awarded $2.8 million to help Alabamians fight homelessness, with $500,000 going to help the homeless population in Huntsville.
It's unknown exactly how many people currently experiencing homelessness in Huntsville, because data is usually collected each January but Covid-19 made it difficult to get accurate numbers in 2021. The North Alabama Coalition for the Homeless has the most recent data from 2020, which shows the homeless population has gradually increased over the past couple of years and is not likely to go down.
As manager of community development for the largest city in the state, Scott Erwin sees the homeless population growing along with the city.
"We have more homeless people coming to our community," Erwin said. "Some are seeing our success, and they get here and sometimes it isn't what they expected."
He's hoping the $500,000 from this year's "Emergency Solutions Grants" program will provide assistance directly for those who need it.
"Solving the homeless is a complex issue, but I do see (the funds) being able to get more street outreach," he said.
The funds will also be used for shelters, homelessness prevention and — one of the biggest needs — rapid rehousing.
"Literally every income segment is experiencing a housing shortage in Huntsville, but some would argue it's most affecting those with the lowest income," Erwin said.
He said the situation amounts to growing pains from a growing population, and the challenge is making sure anyone who comes to Huntsville has the resources and ability to move past homeless circumstances.
Since the North Alabama Coalition for the Homeless was unable to get accurate data from 2021, the upcoming "point-in-time count" will be extra important in seeing how the population has grown. The "point-in-time count" looks at people experiencing homelessness on a single night in January and heavily influences the level of Emergency Solutions Grants the city can expect next year.