Funds for new Firehouse Shelter blocked by B’ham city council

B'ham firehouse shelter accused of discrimination

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Heated words and accusations on Tuesday at the Birmingham City Council meeting over a plan for the city to contribute $1 million over five years to help build a new Firehouse Shelter.

The proposal came up three weeks ago. The Firehouse Shelter is in the middle of a fundraiser for the $6 million project. They hoped the city would help out, but not enough council members agreed because of discrimination allegations against the shelter.

The council chamber was packed with homeless clients of the Firehouse Shelter and supporters. The new shelter would add emergency bed space for the shelter which is not prepared to handle the onslaught of homeless during cold weather outbreaks.

Half of the council was troubled by a number of phone calls they say came from shelter employees accusing the management of discrimination against some workers and clients.

“Not one, not two, not twenty, not 30, not 40 - I’ve gotten over 215 calls,” City Councilwoman Shelia Tyson said.

“The discrimination that takes place in the Firehouse Shelter is something we have to consider,” City Councilman Steven Hoyt said.

The council split a vote 4 to 4, killing the proposal.

The Executive Director of the Firehouse Shelter is disappointed. “Our numbers clearly show our goal, our mission, and our success rates are to pull chronically homeless out of their current state and put them back into the community,” said Anne Rygiel.

Rygiel denies the allegations and promised they will continue to fundraise without the city’s help. They have raised $4 million and need about $6.2 million total for the project.

During a heated exchange, Mayor Randall Woodfin - who supports the project - accused Hoyt of trying and failing to get a job with the shelter. Hoyt denied the allegation and called the mayor “a liar.” Both men apologized to each other at the end of the debate.

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