Homelessness in the ‘Ham

By on November 16, 2013
Homelessness In The Ham

Homelessness is a major concern for the Birmingham area. Leadership and Service Council is raising awareness and funds to ensure theses people are adequately taken care of the week of November 11-16th.

There are an estimated 6,080 homeless people in Alabama as of 2009, according to the report National Alliance to End Homelessness.

The nation’s total homeless population grew 3 percent in that time to a total of 656,129.

Also, between 2008 and 2009, the number of homeless families in Alabama grew 7 percent, while the number of those who live on the street or in cars or abandoned homes grew 40 percent.

The findings show that factors linked to homelessness in Alabama are increasing and those increases are often growing at a faster rate than the national increases.

“You know, I never considered it a huge problem until I started working on the issue and gathering the information,” said Satyam Patel, Co-Coordinator of Social Change.

Many are in poor health or at high risk of dying. Burdened by lack of access to money or insurance, and by competing challenges such as finding a place to sleep, they often lack access to regular primary care. Even when care is obtained, studies show that homeless individuals are more likely to feel unwelcome.

In response to these challenges, a number of programs across the country have tried to develop special primary care service teams specifically tailored to offer a patient-centered experience for homeless patients.

“For homeless patients in particular, to whom emotional and material barriers to care are so profound, the first goal is to build a relationship,” said Kertesz, associate professor of Preventive Medicine in the Department of Medicine and the principal investigator for the study.

There are many homeless shelters around Birmingham including One Roof and Hands-On-Birmingham, which sponsors the Project Homeless in February. The purpose of the program is to do basic dental work and medical care for the homeless.

“We wanted to scientifically measure whether a stronger relationship develops in primary care programs that really tailor their services for homeless patients. That meant using a truly valid survey tool with the patients,” said Kertesz.

While the economy may seem like it is on the rise with the growing success in the stock market, the working class is still struggling to find employment. The homeless population is still continuing to grow daily and shelters struggle to find more room to help house the demand.

Most people choose not to receive help, because of the social stigma of begging. In a survey taken last semester, students suggested that the homeless was that individuals problem either financial problems or abuse of a substance.

Sociology Professor Dr. Jeffery Clair took it upon himself to figure out the real cause. He wrote a book about him interviewing the homeless in various locations in Birmingham.

“We were just talking to people,” said Clair. “The [homeless shelter] system is broken. There are some shelters, but they are government-funded. They do great work, and some people do need treatment. But to get into the system, you have to have a drug or mental problem, and some of them don’t.”

Birmingham City Council has been funding research and organizations to fix the problem. Within the city limits, there are 12 shelters, but that number cannot contain the estimated 2500 without proper housing.

LSC is devoting the week to not only hunger in the nation, but worldwide. One of their events, Stop Hunger Now, will be packaging rice and simple dry goods to ship to various countries in need.

“Volunteers will package dehydrated, high protein, and nutritious meals used to save lives in developing countries around the world. This fun and rewarding activity allows you to have a sustainable international impact on hunger, right here from campus,” said the website manager, Gabrielle Miller.

Homelessness has been an issue for many years, but fortunately, the statistics over the past two months has been steady.

Additional Information provided by UAB News Service and Sarah Stephenson, Staff Writer.

How to help others in your community

Sometimes an act of kindness can go a long way. Here are a few ways you can help the homeless in your daily activities (from justgive.com).

Bring food
It’s as simple as taking a few extra sandwiches when you go out. When you pass someone who asks for change, offer him or her something to eat. If you take a lunch, pack a little extra. When you eat at a restaurant, order something to take with you when you leave.

Give recyclables
In localities where there is a “bottle law,” collecting recyclable cans and bottles is often the only “job” available to the homeless. But it is an honest job that requires initiative.

You can help by saving your recyclable bottles, cans, and newspapers and giving them to the homeless instead of taking them to a recycling center or leaving them out for collection. If you live in a larger city, you may wish to leave your recyclables outside for the homeless to pick up — or give a bagful of cans to a homeless person in your neighborhood.

Donate clothing
Next time you do your spring or fall cleaning, keep an eye out for those clothes that you no longer wear. If these items are in good shape, gather them together and donate them to organizations that provide housing for the homeless.

Donate a bag of groceries
Load up a bag full of nonperishable groceries, and donate it to a food drive in your area. If your community doesn’t

have a food drive, organize one. Contact your local soup kitchens, shelters, and homeless societies and ask what kind of food donations they would like.

Donate toys
Children living in shelters have few possessions –if any– including toys. Homeless parents have more urgent demands on what little money they have, such as food and clothing. So often these children have nothing to play with and little to occupy their time.

You can donate toys, books, and games to family shelters to distribute to homeless children. For Christmas or Chanukah, ask your friends and co-workers to buy and wrap gifts for homeless children.

Volunteer at a shelter
Shelters thrive on the work of volunteers, from those who sign people in, to those who serve meals, to others who counsel the homeless on where to get social services. For the homeless, a shelter can be as little as a place to sleep out of the rain or as much as a step forward to self-sufficiency.

Volunteer at a soup kitchen
Soup kitchens provide one of the basics of life, nourishing meals for the homeless and other disadvantaged members of the community.

Volunteers generally do much of the work, including picking up donations of food, preparing meals, serving it, and cleaning up afterward.

To volunteer your services, contact your local soup kitchen, mobile food program, shelter, or religious center.


Carlene Robinson
Executive Editor

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