Homelessness in Birmingham

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Homelessness in Birmingham is a primary issue.

Mayor Bernard Kincaid assembled a Mayor's Commission to Prevent and End Chronic Homelessness, which drafted "Birmingham's Plan to End Chronic Homelessness", a 10-year action plan aimed at expanding housing options, improving access to support services, updating public policies, and mobilizing community awareness and volunteerism. The plan was adopted by the commission and submitted to the city in May 2007. According to Reverend Lawton Higgs of the Church of the Reconciler, a Methodist congregation that directly engages Birmingham's homeless, efforts to implement the 10-year plan stalled almost immediately.

One event which aims to implement several of the plan's recommendations is Project Homeless Connect, an annual one-day event at Boutwell Auditorium bringing together numerous agencies and volunteers to provide services such as issuing photo identifications, preparing tax returns, resolving legal disputes and providing medical examinations, haircuts, massages and meals. 518 individuals received help in the first event in April 2008 and at least 650 were helped in 2009. Boutwell Auditorium also opens as a warming station on nights when the temperature is forecast to drop below freezing. Some additional services, including donated clothing and toiletries and hot meals provided through Heart to Table, are distributed on those nights.

In 2019 the City Action Partnership (CAP) which patrols and provides services to individuals in the downtown area, hired a full-time "Street Outreach Coordinator" to help manage the service's interactions with individuals experiencing homelessness.

In 2021 Birmingham was awarded $5,074,139 through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's "Home Investment Partnerships Program", funded from the American Rescue Plan Act. The program was intended to help cities directly address homelessness by acquiring housing and distributing rental assistance.

In anticipation of persons experiencing homelessness being displaced from the "security perimeters" erected during the 2022 World Games the city and the World Games contributed funding to several non-profit organizations providing services to the homeless. "Project Compassion" was launched as part of that effort to provide temporary shelter, but its proposed "micro-shelters" were found unsuited to the needs of people impacted.


In a January 2012 survey, volunteers for One Roof (formerly Metropolitan Birmingham Services for the Homeless) found a total of 1,707 homeless individuals in the Birmingham area. Of those, 662 were residing in transitional shelters and 347 were sleeping in emergency shelters, leaving 698 unsheltered homeless living on the streets. Among those unsheltered, 347 were considered "chronically homeless", meaning that they have been living on the streets or in shelters for more than a year, or have been homeless four or more times in three years, with a physical, mental or developmental disability or substance addiction impairing their efforts to find a permanent home.

In all, the volunteers found that 717 of the people they interviewed had signs of severe mental illness and 894 were chronic substance abusers. 175 of the homeless were war veterans and 132 were living with HIV/AIDS. They found 25 homeless minors and 191 homeless families with dependent children.

In 2015 a report of data from the "Point in Time" count made by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development indicated that the state's homeless population dropped from 4,561 in January 2014 to 3,970 at the same time in 2015. Of those, 2,868 were individuals and 1,102 were with family members. 2,943 of the total were living in shelters or other institutional residences with the other 1,027 classified as "unsheltered". 607 were "chronically homeless," having lived continuously on the streets for more than a year. 474 of them were veterans, and 228 were minors living on their own. Of the state's 3,970 homeless people, 1,153 were counted in the Birmingham area, with 578 in Mobile, 441 in Montgomery and 420 in Huntsville.

One Roof's 2021 "On A Given Night" estimate for Jefferson, St Clair, and Shelby Counties claimed a total homeless population of 875, with 556 of those sheltered in either emergency or transitional arrangements. Of that total, 118 were homeless veterans, 39 families were experiencing homeless, 31 were unaccompanied youth between 18 and 24 years old, and 230 were "chronically" homeless. The estimate broke down the homeless population by race as 58% Black and 39% white, and be gender as 72% male and 28% female. It was estimated that 115 of the area's homeless suffered from severe mental illness and 101 from ineffectively treated substance abuse disorders. Experts presume that the total of 875 is likely an undercount, but it is still an evidently significant reduction from 1,228 counted in 2016. The proportion of persons experiencing homeless who were able to access shelter was even more significant, growing from 16% to 64% over the 5-year period.

One Roof's Continuum of Care Program conducts annual "point-in-time" counts of individuals in Birmingham facing unsheltered homelessness each January. According to those counts, the number of people in need has grown fairly steadily since 2016:

year   count   %change

2016 |  196 |     -   |
2017 |  217 |  +10.7% |
2018 |  219 |   +0.9% |
2019 |  326 |  +48.9% |
2020 |  247 |  -24.2% |
2021 |  319 |  +29.1% |
2022 |  342 |   +7.2% |
2023 |  382 |  +11.7% |

See also

Homeless shelters

Service providers

Other proposals