Homeless encampments: In Jefferson County, there is a rising problem

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Neighbours and visitors to George Ward Park are concerned about illegal encampments. The executive director of One Roof, a homeless-assistance organization, says she understands, but individuals aren’t here because they want to be.

According to data, around 3,400 people in Alabama are homeless, and campaigners claim that figure is growing.

“People are not in encampments because they want to be there. People are in encampments because they don’t have a place to live with a roof,” says Michelle Farley.

Neighbours estimate that 10 to 15 people live at George Ward Park at night. Farley claims that some people have no other option.

“The bridge is their roof,” says Farley. “The tent is their roof. The trees making a canopy is their roof. People are in an encampment because they can’t afford rent. Bulldozing an encampment doesn’t end homelessness it just moves it from one place to another.”

Farley also said that moving can affect people and their neighbourhoods and put them in danger.

“If you come in and bulldoze an encampment, you take down the bushes and somebody is just going to move,” says Farley. “Well, they’re going to move into an abandoned building, an abandoned home. They’re going to set a fire to stay warm to cook. That fire is going to get out of control. You’re going to have a house fire that endangers an entire neighborhood.”

Fixing the homelessness crisis will take time and effort. Farley claims that the number of homeless people has been steadily decreasing for years, but this is no longer the case.

“The housing crisis has driven our homeless unsheltered numbers up. It’s very upsetting to those of us who do this work,” says Farley. “We’re seeing more and more people on the street. We need the general public to become interested in homelessness.”

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MBS Staff
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