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City of Huntsville, HPD tackles homelessness

City leaders and law enforcement hosted a segment during the 'Virtual Housing Expo'

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Homelessness continues to be a crisis in our communities. Access to resources are important now more than ever, especially during the pandemic.   

According to the 'National Alliance to End Homelessness', more than 460 people on a given night are homeless in Huntsville and North Alabama. City leaders and law enforcement will provide necessary resources for the homeless population.

"We all know that mental health, sometimes it spears some sense of homelessness," says Turkessa Coleman-Lacey with the City of Huntsville Development, Planner III.

Coleman-Lacey teamed up with the Huntsville Police Department to help. "They have grown and are warping themselves into so many other roles," says Coleman-Lacey.

HPD Community Resource Officer Johnny Hollingsworth points to mental health to identify people who are homeless.

"A lot of our street homelessness is probably about 60-70% have some form of mental illness," says HPD Community Resource Officer, Johnny Hollingsworth.

Hollingsworth says Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) officers at Huntsville PD have also partnered with Wellstone Behavioral Health to begin a telecommunication program.

"We have the ability when we're out on the street to be able to use an app on our computer and connect with health professionals at Wellstone," says Hollingsworth.

"What seek to do is seek to utilize screening tools, such as HMIS form to determine appropriateness for our housing programs that we have here at Wellstone as well as to link people to psychiatric services," says Wellstone Behavioral Health Bridge Team Manager, Rah'Jahmel White.

Leaders say it's important to remember that homelessness can also be identified as people going through financial strain and on the verge of homelessness.

"From a mother single mom or an intact family that have fallen on hard times," added Coleman-Lacey.

Leaders say a good place to start, call 211. "2-1-1 is our primary local resource agency that they will be able to connect to and then therefore move to the next step to get the assistance," says Coleman-Lacey.