Man crosses state lines to find help at Firehouse Ministries

Published: Feb. 15, 2020 at 11:17 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - It’s hard to imagine that Firehouse Ministries has been operating out of the same shelter for 37 years. With a new shelter opening this week, they’re excited about the new ways they’ll be able to meet the needs of the homeless community.

Case manager Dena Dickerson has only seen growth at Firehouse Ministries in the seven years she’s been here. Part of that is because of The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s new definition of chronic homelessness.

“A chronically homeless individual at one time was a person that had four or more homeless episodes and that was homeless a year. Now it is a year of homelessness and you have to have a disability to be deemed chronically homeless,” says Dickerson.

Their small building on Third Avenue is supposed to only accommodate 50 people. That has now grown to 75. Dickerson says close quarters can hurt what they’re trying to accomplish.

“Very difficult and challenging on our behalf, but very frustrating and depressing on our guest’s behalf. Because they are motivated, but they’re limited and we’re limited in helping them.”

Relief is coming in the form of a new $6 million facility on First Avenue. 58,000 sq., with room for 100 people, a place for those coming from the hospital to recuperate, family and youth housing, a meditation center and more. Justin Walls recently found himself here from Greenwood, Mississippi in search of help.

“I was on drugs, and I was in a position back home, I was homeless staying in abandoned houses. And I want to change, I wanted help, but you know, back home where I’m from in Mississippi, we don’t have these types of resources,” says Walls.

Walls was addicted to crystal meth. He’s been sober now for 30 days.

“I was on it I guess to cope with life. I used to think I had to get high to have enthusiasm, I used to think I had to get high in order to feel sociable.”

Now, he says he can’t wait to get into a new facility and take advantage of these resources he’s been searching for.

“And that’s the only start I need. All I needed was a fair chance and they gave it to me," says Walls.

“If nothing else, let me restore you back to your self-worth and your dignity, something all of us desire, and respect," says Dickerson.

They’ll move in to the new facility this Thursday. They say the first few days will be spent driving some of the guests to the new location, after that they hope to have some help from the city.

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