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Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day & One Roof’s Vulnerability Survey

This Saturday, December 21 is National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day. Two weeks ago, the body of Christopher Kelley Winstead, a man experiencing homelessness in our community, was found in Southside. Mr. Winstead appeared to have been dead for several weeks. The cause of his death is unknown and it’s unclear whether or not his death was preventable, but we at One Roof do know this: if Mr. Winstead had been stably housed, he would’ve been able to pass with dignity. We believe that all people deserve safety and stability, and this includes passing with dignity. No one deserves to die in the street.

This fall, One Roof partnered with students from UAB’s Inter-professional Global Health Service Learning program to pilot a vulnerability survey in three of our member agencies that provide emergency shelter: Firehouse, First Light, and Salvation Army. On a single night in early November, we surveyed around 150 persons staying in shelter to measure their vulnerability to death. We chose to pilot this survey in our emergency shelter population because, aside from our population staying on the streets, this population is perhaps the most vulnerable, the most unstable, and the most likely to have a serious, yet treatable or manageable health condition cause irreparable damage or death.

We found that nearly 1 out of every 4 persons surveyed is living with heart disease. These statistics are not necessarily surprising because we know that heart disease is a leading cause of death in the United States. However, a person experiencing homelessness is much more vulnerable to dying from heart disease than a housed person. Unlike a housed person living with heart disease, a person experiencing homelessness and living with heart disease may not have access to appropriate treatment and care, nutritious well-balanced meals (though they may have access to food), or routine cardio exercise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about half of Americans have one of the following three risk factors for heart disease: smoking, high blood pressure, and high LDL cholesterol. Additional risk factors for heart disease include diabetes, poor diet, physical inactivity, obesity, and excessive alcohol use. According to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, one study shows that men aged 45-64 and experiencing homelessness are 40-50% more likely to die from heart disease than men aged 45-64 and stably housed. The authors of this study (full-text here) identified the following risk factors for persons experiencing homelessness:

  • extreme blood sugar fluctuations among those with diabetes due to poor diet and lack of exercise (even when taking medication)
  • inadequately treated or undiagnosed high blood pressure
  • inadequately treated or undiagnosed high triglyceride levels, possibly due to diabetes, alcohol usage, kidney failure or kidney disease
  • other health conditions caused by high rates of smoking, excessive alcohol use, and inadequate nutrition

As you can see, risk factors for heart disease are much higher for persons experiencing homelessness.  These risk factors, along with a gap in treatment and care, directly increase the vulnerability to death of persons experiencing homelessness and living with heart disease.

We also found that around 10% of people surveyed have experienced cold weather related conditions, including hypothermia, frostbite, and trench foot, and around 15% of people surveyed have experienced heat stroke/exhaustion. Persons experiencing homelessness are much more vulnerable to developing weather and exposure related conditions than stably housed persons (National Coalition for the Homeless). Think about it: a person living on the streets or in shelter doesn’t have unlimited access to warm, dry shelter in the winter or cool, dry shelter in the summer. A person experiencing homelessness doesn’t always have access to clean, dry clothing. This lack of resources, along with various risk factors and health conditions, directly increases the vulnerability of persons experiencing homelessness.

According to an article by Dean Carpenter (On the Front Lines: A Case of Trench Foot in a Homeless Woman), the following are risk factors for weather related injuries in persons experiencing homelessness:

  • alcohol use, which decreases the awareness of symptoms of cold-related injuries
  • nicotine use, which restricts blood flow and causes extremities to get colder faster
  • nerve damage due to diabetes or alcoholism
  • poor nutrition and dehydration
  • ill-fitting shoes, stockings, or socks, all of which restrict circulation to the feet
  • no access to clean, dry socks and warm shelter

We assessed our homeless population’s history of weather related conditions because this is a key part of understanding the vulnerability of persons experiencing homelessness in our area. As noted in a study by Dr. Jim O’Connell of Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, persons experiencing homelessness with a history of hypothermia, frostbite, or trench foot are eight times more vulnerable to death than persons experiencing homelessness without these conditions.

In our community, we also had to consider injuries and conditions due to hot weather. Hydration is incredibly important for persons exposed to hot weather conditions. Joseph Rampulla notes that persons living with alcoholism or poorly treated diabetes are often chronically dehydrated, a condition worsened by exposure to extreme heat. Many persons experiencing homelessness may limit how much liquid they drink due to a lack of available public bathrooms in their community. For a stably housed person, having a place to use the bathroom is a given. For a person experiencing homelessness, drinking lots of water to stay hydrated means having to search for a bathroom and, often, being turned away. Without regular access to cool, dry shelter and public bathrooms, a person experiencing homelessness is much more vulnerable to hyperthermia and heat stroke.

One Roof believes that all people deserve safety, stability, appropriate treatment and care, and affordable housing, and it is our mission to prevent and end homelessness in our community. We believe that all people deserve to live healthily and die with dignity. As a community of service providers, concerned citizens, and advocates for some of the most vulnerable persons in our community, it is our responsibility to make sure that no person experiencing homelessness in our community dies on the street.

Please donate here to support our efforts to educate, advocate, and coordinate services in our community.

 

Josh Helms is an AmeriCorps member serving at One Roof as the Capacity Building Assistant.

 

 

Holiday Donation Suggestions

The holidays are upon us and this is a time when many people may think of our community members who are in need: community members with little support and resources, community members who aren’t food or housing secure. If you’re reading this, you probably have a desire to help people who are vulnerable, to provide support for those who are in need of it. Put simply, you’re invested in making a positive change in our community. One Roof wants to equip and empower you to do that in an effective, constructive way that will directly contribute to the stability of some of the most vulnerable members of our community. Here are some ways you can help:

Donate to First Light, which provides emergency shelter and permanent supportive housing to women and children.

  • Volunteers usually sign up to either provide a meal or become overnight volunteers, so First Light does not need “helpers” for meals and such.
  • Dinner volunteer opportunities are open now for January – June, 2014.
  • Donate items from their year-round Budget-Relieving Wish List, some of which are below:
    • Office Products
      • Copy paper
      • Ink pens, white-out, highlighters
      • Manila envelopes for larger mailings
    • Cleaning/Laundry Products
      • Disinfectant cleaners, Windex or other hard surface cleaner, toilet bowl cleaner, and toilet bowl brushes
      • Powder laundry detergent, bleach
      • Cleaning cloths
    • Food and Kitchen Supplies
      • Breakfast foods
      • Disposable paper goods
      • Coffee, creamer, and sugar
    • Program Supplies
      • Snacks for group therapy
    • Personal Items
      • Women’s underwear (all sizes needed)
      • Women’s deodorant, hair care products of all kinds, travel-size shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, soap, and lotion
      • Toothbrushes
      • Alcohol-free mouthwash
      • Razors and shaving cream
      • Over-the-counter pain relievers (please non-drowsy, alcohol-free, pseudoephedrine-free)
      • Weekly pill organizers
      • Makeup of all shades and kinds
      • Chapstick
      • Socks
    • Sponsor a woman moving into permanent housing
      • Sponsor a kitchen:
        • Kitchen towels and pot holders
        • Broom, mop, and dustpan
        • Pots, pans, serving utensils, silverware, dishes, glasses
        • Small toaster and small coffee pot
        • Garbage can and garbage bags (food stamps do not cover paper products or cleaning products)
        • All-purpose cleaning products and dishwashing liquid
      • Sponsor a bathroom:
        • Bath rug, shower curtain, shower curtain rings, wash cloths/hand towels/bath towels
        • Small garbage can with garbage bags
        • Laundry basket
        • Hand soap and/or dispenser
        • All-purpose bathroom cleaner, toilet brush
        • Plunger
      • Donate gift cards First Light can use when assisting the ladies with their move
  • Monetary contributions help sustain the day-to-day operation of the shelter and are always appreciated.
  • First Light does not need any more toys for children.

 

Donate to The Firehouse Shelter, which provides street outreach, emergency shelter, transitional housing, permanent supportive housing, and affordable housing for men. Day shelter services include showers, laundry, and hot lunches. They need the following:

  • Deodorant
  • Razors
  • Shampoo
  • Toothbrushes and toothpaste
  • Toboggans / skull caps
  • Gloves
  • Laundry detergent
  • Gift cards
  • Monetary contributions help sustain the day-to-day operation of the shelter and are always appreciated.

 

Donate to The YWCA of Central Alabama, which provides domestic violence services, emergency shelter, transitional housing, permanent supportive housing, and affordable housing for families, single women, and women with children. Here are their needs:

  • Santa’s Workshop Target Wish List
  • Santa’s Workshop Amazon Wish List
  • Santa’s Workshop Wish List
    • Art Supplies, Coloring Books, Crayons, Markers and Playdough
    • Baby Items and Infant Toys
    • Backpacks (mesh) and Purses
    • Batteries (all sizes)
    • Blue Jeans
    • Books (for all ages)
    • Fast Food Gift Certificates
    • Remote Control Cars
    • Portable CD Players and CDs
    • Coats, Scarves, Gloves and Other Warm Clothing
    • Jewelry, Hair Accessories, Nail Polish and Accessories
    • Sports Equipment—Footballs, Basketballs, etc.
    • Stuffed Animals, Dolls and Doll Clothes
    • Toys, Board Games, Cards, Card Games and Puzzles
    • Socks and Shoes
  • Gifts for teens (nonviolent in nature)
  • Clothing for children

 

Donate to Pathways, which provides a day center for women where they can shower, do laundry, have a hot lunch, and participate in supportive services; transitional housing to single women and women with children; and the only Safe Haven for severely mentally ill women in our area. They need:

  • Bath towels and wash cloths
  • New women’s underwear sizes 5-10 or small-2XL, new socks, new bras (all sizes, especially large sizes)
  • New underwear, undershirts, & socks for children (all sizes)
  • Toiletries (soap, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, and black hair care products)
  • New, unopened feminine hygiene products (pads, panty liners, tampons)
  • Jackets
  • Hats, gloves, and scarves
  • Sneakers (all sizes)
  • Jeans
  • Black & Khaki work pants

Pathways is also in need of home furnishings for women who are moving into their transitional housing:

  • Rugs
  • Window treatments and blinds
  • Towels
  • Mattresses, box springs, and bed frames
  • Nights stands and coffee tables
  • Shower curtains and bath mats
  • Bedding

 

Donate to Church of the Reconciler. Their services include breakfast, a clothes closet, hygiene kits, Bible study, and AA/NA meetings. They need:

  • Hats
  • Scarves
  • Gloves
  • Blankets
  • Socks
  • Coats
  • Hygiene products (deodorant, toothpaste, razors, etc)

 

Donate to Family Promise of Birmingham, which provides emergency shelter for families. They need:

  • Wal-Mart gift cards
  • Target gift cards
  • Gasoline gift cards
  • Grocery store gift cards
  • Hats, scarves, and gloves
  • Clear or mesh back packs
  • Paper products (paper towels, toilet tissue, paper plates)
  • Trash bags: kitchen size or larger
  • Full-size hygiene items (shampoo, deodorant, razors, shaving cream, tampons, etc)
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Laundry soap, laundry baskets, dryer sheets, bleach
  • AA or AAA batteries

 

Donate to Shelby Emergency Assistance, which provides rental and utility assistance, financial assistance for doctor visits and prescription drugs, budgeting services, GED prep, job search services, school supplies, and food boxes. Here are their needs:

  • Stocking Stuffer Christmas List:
    • Gas cards
    • Grocery gift cards (Publix, Piggly Wiggly, Wal-Mart, etc)
    • Toiletries (soap, toilet paper, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, diapers,
      baby wipes, feminine products, etc)
    • Home Cleaning Supplies (laundry detergent, dish detergent, Lysol, paper
      towels)

 

Donate to Changed Lives Christian Center, which provides transitional housing for men. They also run the Nest medical clinic, which provides free medical services to persons experiencing homelessness. Here are some ways to give to CLCC (for a complete list, visit here):

  • Visit www.cl-cc.org and sign up to financially support CLCC’s “Almost Home Fund.” Any amount helps.
  • Create Care Packages for New Residents (call for list of items).
  • Advocate:
    • Have lunch at CLCC, Monday – Friday at 11:30 am.
    • Have your employer sponsor a table at CLCC’s annual Leadership Luncheon.
    • Like and share CLCC’s work on Facebook.
    • Assist CLCC in developing relationships with responsible employers for residents.
  • Volunteer:
    • Serve one night/weekend a month and feed the residents of CLCC.
    • Mentor (men only): Encourage one or more residents on a weekly basis.
    • Answer phones, cook, or drive for our residents.
    • Pick men up for church.
  • Give paper and cleaning products.
  • Give breakfast, lunch, and dinner meats.
  • Donate a gently used vehicle. One of CLCC’s greatest needs is maintaining their fleet of vehicles that get their residents to work.
  • Donate lawnmowers/weed-eaters/tools/shop-vac/air-compressor
  • Help stock the Give A Bible/Take A Bible section of our library.
  • Help on Medical Night with THE NEST (4th Tuesday of the month). Help sort medications for Medical Night (Saturday prior to the 4th Tuesday of the month).

 

Donate to SafeHouse of Shelby County, which provides emergency shelter, transitional housing, and counseling for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.

  • Give items from SafeHouse’s Holiday Wish List, including:
    • Gifts for children in pre-school:
      • Fisher-Price Little People and Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Toys
      • Vtech Go! Go! Smart Wheels Cars
      • Mr. Potato Head
      • Vtech Alphabet Activity Cube
      • Mega Bloks
    • Gifts for children in elementary school:
      • Hot Wheels
      • Easy Bake Oven
      • Razor Scooter, tricycle, bicycle, and bike helmet
      • Lincoln Logs
      • Legos
      • Fisher Price Basketball Goal
      • Marvel Hero Series Figurine
      • Underwear/Socks/T-shirts all sizes
      • Journey Girls Dolls, Baby Alive Dolls, Lalaloopsy Dolls, and Cabbage Patch Dolls
      • Littlest Pet Shop
      • T-ball Set
      • Transformers
      • Games: Operation, Connect Four, Trouble, Chinese Checkers, Simon, Uno Attack, Battleship, Twister
      • Books: Junie B. Jones; Diary of a Wimpy Kid; Lord of the Rings; Purplicious; Sofia the First; Dr. Seuss; Big Nate; Chronicles of Narnia
      • Play Cash Register
      • DVDs: Monsters University; How the Grinch Stole Christmas; Dora the Explorer; Ice Age
    • Gifts for middle and high school youth:
      • Sports equipment: football, basketball, baseball and glove, baseball bat, and soccer ball
      • Handheld Video Games
      • Nintendo DS
      • Boombox
      • Chess
      • Mp3 Player
      • Digital Camera
      • Skateboard
      • Helmet
      • Bicycle
      • Purse
      • Alabama/Auburn T-shirt
      • Jewelry
      • Underwear/Socks/T-shirts all sizes
    • Gifts for mothers:
      • Ladies Coats, All Sizes
      • Bath/Lotion Basket
      • Slippers
      • Make-up Set
      • Manicure Kit
      • Jewelry
      • Robes
      • Throw Blanket
      • Jewelry Box
      • Scarf
      • Perfume
      • Pajama Set
      • Cardigan Sweater

 

Donate to One Roof. Our mission is to equip and empower our community to prevent and end homelessness in Central Alabama through advocacy, education, and coordination of services. Our needs are:

  • White copy paper
  • Goldenrod colored paper (8.5” x 11”)
  • Ink pens
  • General office supplies
  • Monetary donations will directly support Project Homeless Connect. PHC is an annual event where over 60 non-profit, government, and social service agencies collaborate in one location to present homeless citizens with as many necessary services as possible, including eye care, oral care, physicals, social security, identification, and other services.

 

Special notes:

  • All underwear, undershirts, bras, and socks should be new and unopened. Because the population our agencies serve is always changing, call ahead to ask about sizes needed.
  • All feminine hygiene products should be new, unopened, and purchased within the last six months.
  • All hygiene products (skin care, hair care, deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc.) should be new, unopened, and purchased within the last six months. Contact service providers to determine whether they prefer full-size or travel-size hygiene products.
  • Our homeless population is very diverse. When buying toys and books, be sure to include representations of people of color.

 

One Roof and our member agencies are dedicated to helping some of the most vulnerable members of our community. At One Roof, we are fiercely committed to preventing and ending homelessness through education, advocacy, and coordination of services. We believe in what we do and we support our member agencies as they work with limited resources to help persons experiencing homelessness feel safe, gain stability and security, and obtain affordable housing. As always, we’re here to help. Please contact us with any questions or for help finding places to donate or volunteer.

 

Josh Helms is an AmeriCorps member serving at One Roof as the Capacity Building Assistant.

 

 

 

 

Housing is Healthcare for Persons Living with HIV/AIDS

In 2012, there were 132 homeless individuals with a positive diagnosis for HIV/AIDS in our area. Living with HIV/AIDS is already incredibly difficult for a person who has housing, a full support structure, and a good, stable source of funding. Without this stability—without supportive services, without appropriate healthcare, without safe, decent, and affordable housing—living with HIV/AIDS can be impossible.

The stigma attached to HIV/AIDS and the general misunderstanding of the disease and its transmission results in community prejudice and, often, the loss of important support systems. This means that a person living with HIV/AIDS can lose their job and loved ones due to ignorance—they can lose their support, stability, and sense of safety.

Stigma and social pressure can keep a person living with HIV/AIDS from seeking treatment and services because they don’t want others to know their HIV status or because they fear that people won’t be willing to help them if they know their HIV status. This creates a barrier for people who desperately need services to survive. The possibility of increased illness due to a low functioning immune system and lack of appropriate care is high. Medicines used to combat the disease can be very expensive and typically a person needs multiple costly medicines to remain healthy and stable. All of these factors can lead to persons living with HIV/AIDS becoming homeless.

HIV/AIDS can also develop after a person becomes homeless. Substance abuse (sharing of needles) and survival sex (to secure shelter, food, safety, etc.) can both lead to HIV/AIDS infection for persons experiencing homelessness. On the streets, conditions are often dirty and damp, and this can increase the spread of illnesses. Even within a shelter, a person battling HIV/AIDS can be regularly exposed to other illnesses (flu, strep, etc.) which can ravage someone with a lowered immune system.

Supportive housing is healthcare for a person living with HIV/AIDS: having access to safe, decent, and affordable housing and appropriate treatment and care directly reduces the vulnerability of persons living with HIV/AIDS. Clean living conditions, regular medications, and mental health support are all parts of keeping someone with HIV/AIDS housed, stable, and safe.

Here are some statistics about HIV/AIDS in our area from Karen Musgrove, Executive Director of Birmingham AIDS Outreach (BAO):

According to the Alabama Department of Public Health:

  • 607 new cases of HIV were diagnosed in Alabama in 2012; 181 of these cases were diagnosed in Jefferson County
  • 198 new cases of HIV were diagnosed in Alabama from January 1 to June 30 of this year; 51 of these cases were diagnosed in Jefferson County

These numbers show that around 30% of all new cases of HIV in Alabama occur in Jefferson County. Agencies like BAO and AIDS Alabama are constantly working to respond to the needs of persons living with HIV/AIDS in our community. Check out BAO’s website for information about services they provide.

AIDS Alabama, a One Roof member agency, is the only agency in Birmingham that works specifically to house persons living with HIV/AIDS. They focus on housing, supportive services, policy and advocacy, HIV prevention and education, and free and confidential HIV testing. Their wrap-around supportive services include case management; transportation; utility assistance; emergency financial assistance; vocational assistance; GED preparation/training; secondary HIV education; substance abuse treatment; mental health services; health insurance continuation; and support groups. They are deeply committed to the safety, stability, and health of persons living with HIV/AIDS in our community. Click here for more information about their efforts to help people with HIV/AIDS live healthy, stable lives.

One Roof is committed to raising awareness of issues facing persons living HIV/AIDS, and we are dedicated to preventing and ending homelessness for persons living with HIV/AIDS through education, advocacy, and coordination of services. We at One Roof believe that persons living with HIV/AIDS, like all people, deserve safety and stability. Please contact us for help finding appropriate services for persons living with HIV/AIDS and experiencing homelessness.

 

Josh Helms is an AmeriCorps member serving at One Roof as the Capacity Building Assistant.

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