The number of homeless in Walker County has increased in the last year, according to numbers recorded by a state agency earlier this year. Lona Courington, executive director of the Walker County …
The number of homeless in Walker County has increased in the last year, according to numbers recorded by a state agency earlier this year. Lona Courington, executive director of the Walker County Coalition for the Homeless (WCCH), told the Jasper Kiwanis Club on Monday that nearly 400 people can be homeless in Walker County on any given day.
The Alabama Rural Coalition for the Homeless count the homeless in the 42 counties it serves each year. The count for 2019 showed 379 homeless in Walker County in January of this year. That is nearly 100 more people than counted in 2018. Out of that number, 161 were students in schools in Walker County.
“We can’t be sure that all those students were homeless on that particular day, but that is the number we received from the schools,” she said. “It is a terrible problem in our area, and we are doing all we can to help.”
Courington said the count isn’t completely accurate, adding that she feels the numbers are higher than the count shows.
The WCCH served 410 clients in 2018. Courington said one of the demographics where she has seen a big rise in recent years is single men and women over 50. Those two groups made up 69 cases in 2018.
“These are often times people who are mentally disabled, and they have lived with a parent for their entire life, but the parent dies, and they have no place to go,” she said.
Courington said the homeless in Walker County can be found in a variety of places. They stay with friends or family, usually a different place every night; sleep in cars; stay in abandoned buildings; under railroad trestles, bridges or overpasses; in RVs with no utilities; in the Wal-Mart parking lot or in tents in the woods.
“The homelessness of our county is different from what you see in Birmingham or bigger cities,” Courington said. “Rural homelessness looks much different. It is really invisible at times.”
To help combat the problem, the WCCH offers a variety of services, including housing counseling, housing searches, rental deposits, rent and help obtaining proper identification, Courington said. All the work is done through donated funds.
“We have had to cut some services in the last year, because our funding was cut,” she said. “We appreciate everyone who gives to us, including the Walker Area Community Foundation, who is our biggest donor.”
The WCCH office has recently moved to 640 West 19th Street in downtown Jasper. For more information, call the WCCH at 205-387-7408.