HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — As Huntsville's homeless population grows, so does the amount of trash in the camps.
City leaders say waste is becoming a real problem for both the City and people who are homeless. They say your donations could actually be adding to the problem.
Leaders say it is better to donate to local organizations who work with people who are homeless because more donations at the camps actually means more waste.
Operation Green Team Director, Joy McKee, said, "When loads of raw chicken are dropped off, you can imagine, they don't have a way to keep that, so then within a few hours, that raw chicken then becomes a hazard and a problem for the camp."
Because of the amount of supplies dropped off, food, clothing, and comfort items often go to waste.
City employees say they are are constantly out in the camps cleaning up. They say over time, thousands in tax dollars are used for clean up efforts.
Huntsville Police Community Relations Officer, Sergeant Grady Thigpen, said "We strongly encourage you guys to get on CharityTracker and utilize this to minimize the duplication of services, and not only that, it gives us an opportunity as a community to empower the folks that are in the camps and get them out of this horrific situation."
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City officials say one of the best ways nonprofits, community organizations, corporations, and churches can help is by using CharityTracker online software administered by the Expect Little Miracles (ELM) Foundation. CharityTracker helps to identify what other local groups are doing to help the homeless.
If you want a CharityTracker license, contact Jennifer Kinard at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the need in Huntsville. While more people donate during the holidays, leaders say this year, it's more important than ever to be intentional with your donations.
If you want to help, reach out to local groups who work closely with people who are homeless and find out what exactly they need.
Agencies like First Stop, the Salvation Army, New Futures, Inc., Manna House and Downtown Rescue Mission are always taking up donations of food, money, and other supplies.
ELM Foundation Case Manager, Missy Hanks, said "They will provide things that will help people not only be comfortable but to make strong strides toward ending their homelessness through case management, through mental health services, through prescription medication assistance, job skills training and ultimately transitional housing."
Operation Green Team needs volunteers to help clean up the camps. If you or a group want to help clean up, call Operation Green Team at 256-532-5326.
You can also call HPD’s Community Relations Unit at 256-722-7100 to discuss ways to give back.
WATCH: Huntsville leaders discuss the best ways to help homeless population