"The people that we work with at First Stop are what we call a kind of unsheltered homeless and so, they're literally, they're living in the camp, in a tent in the woods and they have no access to showers." That's from Jennifer Geist, First Stop Executive Director.
And showers are being provided right now by ShowerUp while First Stop renovates its facilities. Geist says, "They can come here in the morning, you can take a hot shower, they can have breakfast, they can meet with their case manager."
And these folks aren't just getting a shower. Taylor Reed, ShowerUp's lead volunteer, explains that it's so much more. "A shower represents a fresh start. it's a start to the new day, to give someone the opportunity to better their life and turn their life around, whether it's go get a job interview, or go to their job or go restore a relationship or just feel better about yourself. Someone has the opportunity to get clean feel fresh, and then just start their day and then feel comfortable."
Terry, a local unsheltered person, shared what these nonprofits mean to him. "Life saver...I been out here pretty much for 20 years off for now, and they've been here ever since I hit the streets and they've been big help."
First Stop has assisted folks like Terry for years, and while ShowerUp is fairly new to the scene, their efforts are really making a difference among the homeless community here. Terry says, "There's places that you could get a shower but you'd have to have bus money or do a lot of walking. This has been set up where we mostly congregate. It's been a big help."
And Huntsville's unsheltered community has been steadily growing. We asked Geist about why this is happening. She said, "Over the last several months, we've had record number of clients coming here for services. and so when i say record number that's about 140 to 145 people a day and that's a lot and so the need for our services is great."
There's a mix of reasons why, according to Reed. "One, people who are Huntsville natives and have been here for a long time have been priced out of their housing or out of their apartments. So we're seeing a lot of people living in their vehicles. They're able to afford their car but no longer afford their house that they once lived in. And then uniquely enough, Huntsville is named the number one city in America to live and that's bringing a lot of people here who have houses, but also people who don't have houses and they come here because it's a great place to live great environment, great community."