On January 21 and 22, ELM joined the City of Huntsville Community Development Department and Collaborative Community Solutions for Huntsville's Homeless (a steering committee composed of representatives from some of Huntsville's homeless service providers) to sponsor a Community Audit of Resources and Services Provided to our Homeless Population.  Kelcey Johnson, Executive Director of the Memphis Hospitality Hub (MHH) meet with stakeholders, visited sites, and talked to people living in homeless camps as he tool a close look at how our community addresses homelessness. At a public forum at the end of two long days, Kelcey shared some recommendations regarding areas where we can improve our model in serving the homeless population more effectively.  He noted that we have an abundance of resources in our community--especially food. In fact, he suggested that Huntsville's homeless may be more in danger of obesity and diabetes than they are of being hungry! He took note of the food, tents, coats, blankets, and sleeping bags dropped off at homeless camps and suggested that we are a community rich in resources and blessed with generosity.

However Kelcey went on to suggest that these efforts are not helping our homeless. They are hurting them because they encourage our homeless to stay in the camps rather than exiting homelessness. Camp drop offs by well intentioned people also create unsanitary and dangerous conditions. It costs thousands of taxpayer dollars to clean up the mess and fouls our waterways.

Kelcey also applauded the many organizations that are providing shelter, feeding programs, and other services that benefit the homeless. At the conclusion of the audit, it became clear that we have everything we need in this community to help the homeless. We just need to find a better way to work together to deliver those services by leveraging resources rather than duplicating services. That will require collaboration, communication, and intentional case management. Follow up meetings are being held to determine next steps including using a common assessment to help agencies work together, doing better case management, and finding new ways to communicate and share information.  

In the meantime, we encourage organizations to work together to reduce duplication of services and leverage resources. Agencies that work with the homeless are asking for our help to reduce waste and duplication in the camps caused by well-meaning people dropping off food and supplies.  The message we shared during the holidays is still true-- if you want to help the homeless #CashBeatsTrash. Individuals and churches that want to help the homeless might consider redirecting resources to programs that move homeless individuals toward self-sufficiency rather than dropping off supplies directly at the camps. Working through agencies that are helping people exit homelessness is a better way to help the homeless. Help reduce trash by giving cash. #CashBeatsTrash

Here are a few of the many organizations that help the homeless in our community. You can make a donation on their websites.

Many thanks to WAAY-31 for working with us to get out the message that #CashBeatsTrash.

by Jennie Robinson

Board Secretary & ELM Administrator

“There are two ways to live your life. You can live as if nothing is a miracle. Or you can live as if everything is a miracle.” - Albert Einstein