Birmingham opens the city’s first homeless shelter

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AIDS Alabama today opened Birmingham’s first emergency shelter for homeless youth.

The Way Station will be the first and only facility in Birmingham to offer overnight shelter and short- to long-term stays for young people, according to the organization. Officials and advocates hope the center will provide a model to end homelessness in the city.

“We’re really excited that this track station is here in the big city to help those most at risk, especially our LGBTQ and black community,” said Uche Bean, project manager for the Social Justice and of racial equity in the mayor’s office. . “Long-term transitional housing with a holistic approach is the start to ending youth homelessness. And with this stabilization model, end homelessness together. “

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The Way Station, located at 650 3rd Ave. N, will house 20 short-term accommodation beds and 20 transitional accommodation beds for 18-24 year olds. Services will include trauma-informed counseling, healthcare, GED preparation, financial empowerment classes and internships. The transitional housing program will allow a stay of up to two years.

“People don’t really realize the extent of youth homelessness in our city,” said Caroline Bundy, director of development at AIDS Alabama. “The young people we will serve have had a rather difficult start in life. Our goal is to heal trauma and give them the love and skills they need to lead fulfilling lives.

According to the most recent data available, Jefferson, Shelby and St. Clair counties reported 78 homeless youth in 2021, the vast majority of whom were under the age of 18.

However, AIDS Alabama staff members believe there are more than 200 to 300 homeless youth in the city every night.

“A lot of young people are hard to find because they don’t want to be found,” Bundy said. “They don’t want to be kicked out of the homes or the foster homes they fled from, if they thought it wasn’t a good situation for them.”

Federal government considers young people to be homeless if they do not have a fixed, regular or adequate night residence. Black, Hispanic and LGBTQ youth, as well as youth with experiences in foster care, juvenile detention, or without a high school diploma are at higher risk of becoming homeless, according to to the National Youth Network.

There are currently few services available locally in Birmingham. Family Connection – a non-profit organization that provides full services to homeless youth and families – currently operates a reception center in Birmingham which provides meals, clothing and a place to rest and shower for people aged 16 to 21. runs a street outreach program that educates youth about shelter options and community resources.

Anyone under the age of 18 who requests services at The Way Station will be referred to the Department of Human Resources and Child Protection Services. However, Bundy hopes to be able to open a similar juvenile center on an adjacent property in the future.

It is estimated that the routing station will cost $ 4 million to install 15,000 square feet. AIDS Alabama collected about 75% of that total, with money coming from the City of Birmingham, the Regents Bank and $ 1 million from the Cares Act.

“It was really a popular campaign,” Bundy said. “We have accepted donations ranging from $ 5 to a million and every part means as much to me. “

Construction of The Way Station will begin in November. The opening is currently scheduled for June 2022.

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