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Helping Huntsville’s homeless community thrive this holiday season

Published on November 23, 2020

Homeless giving news conference

HUNTSVILLE, AL – With the holiday season upon us and temperatures dropping across the Tennessee Valley, many individuals, churches and other groups are wondering how they can help our area homeless community thrive.

Instead of bringing food, clothing and other supplies directly to the homeless camps, the City of Huntsville is urging citizens to rethink their charitable efforts this winter and beyond.

Mayor Tommy Battle, joined by the Huntsville Police Department, Expect Little Miracles (ELM) Foundation, First Stop and others, said donors can make an impact on the homeless community without contributing to excess waste or creating additional work for City employees.

“Huntsville is fortunate to have a wealth of generous people and organizations who care deeply about our community and want to give back,” he said. “While bringing food or supplies directly to the homeless may be at the top of your list this holiday season, there are better ways to help these individuals get back on their feet.”

How to Help

One of the best ways nonprofits, community organizations, corporations, and churches can help is by using CharityTracker online software administered by ELM to identify what other local groups are doing to help the homeless.

By using CharityTracker to work with agencies rather than going directly to the camps, groups can easily coordinate their efforts and share resources, reducing duplication of services, excess trash and fraud.

“The uncoordinated, independent distribution of comfort items to the homeless camps is creating unsanitary living conditions, dependence, as well as taxpayer-funded cleanup responsibilities,” said Missy Hanks, case manager with ELM. “In order to effectively assist the chronically homeless, we must support agencies that provide case management as well as other vital resources to move people out of homelessness and into sustainable, independent living.”

ELM, which launched CharityTracker in Huntsville in 2019, has more than 200 local organizations using the online software today. That number is growing daily and increased by 30 percent in April and May during the COVID-19 shutdown.

For information about CharityTracker or ELM’s Community Connections project, visit their website. Those interested in gaining a CharityTracker license should contact Jennifer Kinard at jen@elmhsv.org to start the process.

Giving in Other Ways

Citizens can also contact agencies like First Stop, the Salvation Army, New Futures, Inc., Manna House or Downtown Rescue Mission to donate food, money or supplies directly. These organizations and others work closely with our homeless population and know exactly which areas need the most help.

Sgt. Grady Thigpen said residents can also call HPD’s Community Relations Unit at 256-722-7100 to discuss ways to give back.

“We are happy to assist any individual or group that wants to help our homeless community,” Sgt. Thigpen said. “Our goal is to empower people to pull themselves out of homelessness and not just enable them to sustain.”

For a downloadable PSA from ELM Foundation, click here.


For more information, contact Kelly Schrimsher, Director of Communication, City of Huntsville, AL, 256-427-5006, kelly.schrimsher@huntsvilleal.gov.

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