(photo courtesy of al.com)
There was a car accident in front of the Firehouse Shelter this morning and four men were injured in that accident. Of course my first thought was hope that everyone involved will be ok…but when I learned that the four men had been taken to the hospital, I began to wonder about something else–something I might not have been concerned about had the four men not been standing in front of an emergency shelter for men.
If their injuries are severe, where can they go for rehabilitation? You see, we really don’t have many choices for people who are homeless when they are not sick enough to keep in a hospital but yet they are too sick to release them to the streets.
I don’t know yet about the extent of injuries for these men, but I have been informed that 3 of the 4 will need surgery. I’ve had two fairly major surgeries in my life; one was outpatient and the other required several days of hospitalization. For the outpatient surgery, I couldn’t be released without someone to “take me home.” When I got home, I went to bed and for several days afterwards had someone help me with basic living skills like bathing and preparing meals. With the inpatient surgery, the release was much the same…hospital released me to go home and rest and I was only released because I had someone at home who could care for me. I was lucky enough to have plenty of medical insurance, but what if these men don’t? Hospitals can not afford to keep uninsured people indefinitely.
What happens for these men who probably call the Firehouse Emergency Shelter home? None of our emergency shelters are set up to accommodate much in the way of specialized medical care…not really even extended “rest.” There are individual beds for clients, but they are not in individual rooms, and sleeping in a common area with 50 or so other people in crisis really doesn’t contribute to a great deal of rest. Our local shelters make certain clients are offered 2 – 3 meals per day, but there is no one to prepare special meals. In several of our emergency shelters, volunteers prepare a meal for 50+ people and bring it to the shelter, and while that is generally a tasty meal, clients are certainly not asked what their taste preference is for that meal, and few individual dietary restrictions are observed.
With each of my surgeries, I was instructed to keep the incision “clean and dry,” and doing that required assistance to keep the dressing dry when I bathed and required assistance to change the dressing when necessary. Again, our emergency shelters are simply not equipped with extra staff members to help with bathing or changing a dressing. It is not because shelter staff don’t want to help, but they are responsible for the care and safety of 50 or more people at any given time…
Our community needs emergency shelters…but we also need something called Respite Care, and we have none. Consider taking a look at Center for Respite Care or this medical journal article or this Respite Care in Philadelphia, or this piece from the University of California.
Until we get Respite Care here, my sincere hope is that you will think about a time you needed extra attention when you were sick, whether that was with an accident or a surgery or just a nasty cold. Now focus those thoughts and feelings on the situation of these four men at the Firehouse Shelter…
One last thing…think about what our community could look like if there was a home available for everyone who wanted one…
Executive Director, One Roof
This week (May 18-May 24) is National Prevention Week, an annual health observance intended to increase awareness of, and action around, substance abuse and mental health issues. Supported by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), this week is an opportunity for community members to collaborate with other individuals, organizations, and coalitions to promote prevention efforts, educate others about behavioral health issues, and build and strengthen community partnerships. Watch this video to learn more about National Prevention Week and SAMHSA’s efforts.
Why is awareness of, and action around, these issues an important component of One Roof’s work to prevent and end homelessness?
Substance abuse and serious mental illnesses are factors that may contribute to a person experiencing homelessness. When we educate the community about issues related to homelessness, we note that people in our community experience homelessness for various reasons. A person may experience homelessness because they:
More specifically, a person’s substance abuse or serious mental illness may:
One Roof knows that a significant number of people experiencing homelessness in our community are living with serious mental illnesses and/or substance abuse. According to our 2014 Point-in-Time count, 1,329 people experience homelessness in central Alabama on any given night. Of these 1,329, nearly 32% reported living with a serious mental illness and 31% reported living with chronic substance abuse. It is our responsibility to advocate on behalf of clients, educate our community, and coordinate services to make sure these vulnerable individuals receive the best care possible.
Many of our member agencies and service providers are working diligently to meet the needs of people belonging to these vulnerable sub-populations. Follow the links below to learn more about some of our agencies who specifically offer services to individuals with serious mental illnesses or who have substance abuse issues:
These are just a few examples of One Roof member agencies who do their best to provide resources to clients impacted by substance abuse or serious mental illnesses. One Roof’s mission is to equip and empower our community to prevent and end homelessness in central Alabama through advocacy, education, and coordination of services. Preventing and ending homelessness includes serving community members who are experiencing homelessness and living with substance abuse issues and serious mental illnesses. Partner with One Roof and our member agencies to help end homelessness for these vulnerable subpopulations.
We would like to extend a thank you, once again, to friends who conducted interviews with us this year as well as community members who have been involved with One Roof in the past. Collecting this data cannot happen without you! Make sure that when you’re reviewing the table you pay attention to the “unsheltered” count. Point-in-Time volunteers are responsible for the total unsheltered count in our area! Thank you for reaching out to 414 unsheltered individuals in our community so that we can better understand how to help.
The data in the table above gives a snapshot of who was homeless on any given night in 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 in Jefferson, Shelby, and St. Clair counties of Alabama. The Total numbers are comprised of the sheltered and unsheltered numbers added together. 2014 results are highlighted in purple.
Please note that the sub-populations stand alone and do not represent additional people to those listed in theIndividuals, Total Persons in Families, or Total Personsrows. Sub-population numbers represent every instance where the sub-population applied to an individual.Families are the number of homeless households we have seen with dependent children, and Total Persons in Families is the number of individuals belonging to those households.
This year 120 volunteers helped to conduct the Point in Time survey in the metropolitan Birmingham area. This is the second year we were able to expand street counts to include parts of Woodlawn, Avondale, East Lake, West End, and other neighborhoods outside of downtown. Volunteers are responsible for the total unsheltered count (31% of the total homeless population).
The sheltered numbers come directly from a database used by our service providers called PromisAL, which records services and acts as a tool to connect services in our homeless Continuum of Care.
Here are some highlights that we can see in this year’s data:
Please let us know if you have any questions or suggestions for improving our process next year, and thank you for your patience while waiting for the results. Thank you for helping us to fulfill our mission to equip and empower our community to prevent and end homelessness through advocacy, education, and coordination of services. Thank you for your work to improve the community we share.
We hope you have a great summer and that we’ll see you next year for PIT 2015!
Community Outreach Coordinator