Serve as an AmeriCorps Member with One Roof: Help End Homelessness


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Each year, One Roof partners with the YWCA of Central Alabama’s “Building Communities, Bettering Lives” AmeriCorps program to host two AmeriCorps members. AmeriCorps members offer fantastic assistance to One Roof and become part of the One Roof team, helping our agency to fulfill our mission:  to equip and empower our community to prevent and end homelessness through advocacy, education, and coordination of services. AmeriCorps members have played an important role in One Roof’s growth over the past few years.

While serving with One Roof, AmeriCorps members learn a wealth of new professional skills, have front-line experience in a non-profit organization, and build close ties and get involved in the Birmingham community. During their year of service, AmeriCorps members also attend professional development trainings and get to know many local non-profits and what they’re doing to better Birmingham.  Members receive a modest living stipend as well as an Education Award, which can be used to assist with the cost of student loans or tuition.

The AmeriCorps program is ideal for individuals who are passionate about serving their communities, individuals interested in getting involved with non-profit work, and individuals who are building their professional experience and portfolio.

Here are some testimonials from current and former AmeriCorps members who served through the YWCA’s program at One Roof:

During my year of service at One Roof, I’ve further developed my skills as a team member and learned that ending homelessness, like many other issues related to social justice, must be a coordinated community effort. As a former teacher, I’ve appreciated the rewarding opportunity to educate community members, service providers, and high school, undergraduate, and graduate students about issues facing various subpopulations experiencing homelessness in our community. As a writer, I’ve enjoyed researching, writing, and editing posts about issues related to homelessness on One Roof’s blog. I’m particularly invested in advocating for community members who identify as LGBTQ+ and, because of my involvement with One Roof, I’ve been able to do this in a very real way by attending meetings of local interest groups and presenting at conferences. Being at One Roof has allowed me the space to deepen my commitment to social justice while learning valuable skills and building self-confidence.

–  Josh Helms,  2013-2014 Service Year


I served with One Roof for two years after I graduated college.  I firmly believe that this was the best decision that I’ve ever made for myself; serving at One Roof, I was able to engage the Birmingham community in a meaningful way and learn more about social justice issues (a true passion of mine).  The team I served with was empowering and encouraged me to take on my own projects with creativity and to lead new projects.  At One Roof, I gained a wealth of professional experience and personal growth I wouldn’t have had somewhere else.  I now have experience with grant writing, doing in-house graphic design work, designing educational materials to teach others about homelessness, volunteer and event coordination, and networking skills I never thought I would have.  My AmeriCorps service was a huge confidence builder, and it really helped me to cultivate my skills and talents to serve my community.  I’m now proud to say that because of AmeriCorps, I’ve been hired as an employee for One Roof.

–  Stacy Oliver, 2011-2013 Service Years 


One Roof is currently looking for a Capacity Building Assistant and a Community Outreach Assistant.   Applications are due by July 15, 2014, to the YWCA of Central Alabama.  To apply and for more information, visit or contact Angela Moore,

Positions will start in the first week of September, 2014. Position descriptions here:

AmeriCorps One Roof Position Description – Capacity Building revised May 2013

AmeriCorps One Roof Position Description – Communications and Community Outreach Revised May 2013

Accidents Will Happen: The Need for Respite Care in Central Alabama

Firehouse accident 5.28.14

                                                                                                                                                            (photo courtesy of

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…


Michelle Farley

Executive Director, One Roof

Substance Abuse, Mental Health, and Homelessness


Substance Abuse, Mental Health, and Homelessness

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:

  • lack acceptance from family, friends, and community members
  • lack a safe space free from physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
  • lack emotional and/or financial support
  • experience economic instability
  • are unable to plan for ongoing crisis
  • have aged out of foster care, left incarceration, left hospital or psychiatric treatment without appropriate discharge planning and supports in place
  • abuse substances / self-medicate due to underlying issues
  • live with severe mental illnesses
  • live with disabling physical and/or mental health conditions
  • live with HIV/AIDS

More specifically, a person’s substance abuse or serious mental illness may:

  • compromise existing support systems
  • be a result of non-acceptance and/or a poor support system
  • be a result of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
  • limit their ability to be economically stable and self-sufficient
  • be a result of leaving foster care, incarceration, or hospital or psychiatric treatment without appropriate planning and supports in place
  • cause them to self-medicate (or continue to self-medicate) due to underlying issues
  • result in disabling physical and/or mental health conditions
  • cause them to engage in high-risk behaviors that may result in a positive diagnosis for HIV

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:

  • Aletheia House provides substance abuse treatment and housing to pregnant women, parents of families, and men who struggle with addiction and alcoholism.
  • AIDS Alabama provides substance abuse interventions for persons living with HIV/AIDS.
  • JBS (Jefferson, Blount, & St. Clair) Mental Health Authority offers housing to persons living with serious mental illnesses, as well as mental health screenings, medications, and a street outreach team.
  • UAB Community Psychiatry & UAB REACT provide treatment, housing, and services for people with schizophrenia, mood disorders, severe anxiety disorders and co-occurring substance abuse disorders.
  • UAB TASC (Treatment Alternatives for Safety Communities) is an alternative treatment program for individuals with substance abuse or mental health issues and who have been involved in the criminal justice system
  • The Foundry provides long and short term residential treatment to individuals struggling with substance abuse issues
  • Fellowship House provides substance abuse treatment options, including residential programs, to people struggling with addiction or alcoholism.

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.

To stay involved and aware of One Roof’s efforts, be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

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