Non-profit News

Homelessness Doesn’t Get A Summer Break

Jim Street knows what it feels like to be hot and desperate. He was homeless for a year after losing everything due to alcoholism. He lived in the woods off of University Drive. The Alabama heat was only part of his problem—Jim was eaten up by mosquitoes every day.  And with mosquitos and other bugs comes another host of medical problems—West Nile Virus, Dengue Fever and Lyme Disease.

Jim had a tent, but when temperatures were high, it was too hot to sleep in it. So many times he thought he was going to pass out from the heat. Many homeless who don’t have a tent sleep on the sidewalks, and in the summer, the pavement can reach 143 degrees on an 85-degree day.

It’s a hard life for homeless people—especially in the summer—but help is available. Downtown Rescue Mission is still going strong, filling more than 200 beds every night.

While this is the busy season for Downtown Rescue Mission, we recently learned donations have dropped to their lowest point all year, leaving the Mission in dire need.

Corey Buckner, one of the Mission directors, said donations peak around the last four months of the year but drop off throughout the rest of the year.

“In the summer, they don’t realize that we’re running full steam,” Corey said. “I think part of it is that people just forget; they’re not really thinking about us. … We’re just more top of mind at the end of the year.”

Downtown Rescue Mission provides three meals a day plus a shower, a safe place to sleep, and programs to end the addiction cycle to anyone who needs it. On nights when the temperature gets too high or too low, they even allow people who have been barred from the Mission to stay overnight.

What They Need

When you walk into the AGAPE shop, the on-site clothing shop at Downtown Rescue Mission that gives clothes to those who come through, you can immediately tell donations are lacking. While smaller size women’s clothes are donated regularly, it’s the larger sizes that rarely come in.

They also need men’s clothes in regular and big-and-tall sizes.

The clothes can be gently used, but when it comes to underwear and socks, the AGAPE shop needs new items.

The stockroom for soap, shampoo and other hygiene items is also nearly empty, and anyone who has been outside in the heat of an Alabama summer knows the importance of a good bar of soap and some deodorant for personal health and the happiness of those around you.

In addition to clothing and personal hygiene items, monetary donations can be made online or in person at the Mission on Evangel Drive.

You can also use Amazon Smile to donate to Downtown Rescue Mission. Just choose Downtown Rescue Mission at smile.amazon.com and start shopping as you normally would. Charities worldwide have gotten more than $54 million in donations through the Amazon Smile program.

Where Your Money Goes

Cashiers at the Downtown Rescue Mission thrift stores regularly ask customers if they want to round their purchases up and donate their change to the Mission only to denied because customers say they aren’t sure where the money is going.

It’s understandable in an age where large nonprofits are giving money away to other causes, but that’s not the case for Downtown Rescue Mission. Corey recommends going to Charity Navigator if you’re looking for information on any nonprofit or if you’d like to see a breakdown of the Mission’s financials.

For every monetary donation, 84.4 percent goes to support programs—alcohol and addiction recovery, meals and overnight care. Another 14.2 percent goes to fundraising efforts, like the Urban Iditarod and the Run to Rescue 5K. 

Only 1.3 percent of monetary donations goes to administrative costs, Corey said.

Check out the Downtown Rescue Mission website for more ideas on how you can help Huntsville’s homeless.

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