Firehouse Ministries is one step closer to a new homeless shelter in downtown Birmingham after a groundbreaking ceremony was held on Friday, December 21.
The ceremony, which fell on the 35th anniversary of the opening of the original Firehouse Shelter, was attended by many, including members of the Birmingham City Council, key community stakeholders and past and present clients. Remarks were made by Mayor Randall Woodfin and Executive Director Anne Wright Rygiel of Firehouse Ministries.
“The building of the new Firehouse will allow us to serve our community’s most vulnerable citizens in a manner that is supportive, individualized and holistic,” Rygiel said. “We believe in restoring dignity and hope to the homeless, and for the first time in our history, the building will match the quality of services within.”
The Firehouse Shelter
The Firehouse Shelter first opened its doors on December 21, 1983, operating as a men’s homeless shelter. Its original goal was to meet the food, shelter and clothing needs of the homeless men in the Birmingham-metro area.
Today, the shelter has expanded greatly, offering affordable housing to over 213 people every night and serving over 300 men each day in some capacity, including:
- Addiction recovery
- Free legal counsel
- Transportation to mental health professionals, job interviews, art therapy, the YMCA and math and literacy tutoring
It is also Birmingham’s only homeless men’s emergency shelter that does not have a specific time limit on the length of stay.
The New Shelter
Firehouse has been in the Capital Campaign phase for two years. Now, after many campaign contributions and a $1 million commitment from the city of Birmingham, the move to a new facility has been made possible.
The new shelter will be located at 626 2nd Ave N. and will feature:
- A respite for those being discharged from the hospital or hospice
- A designated space for disease control
- Family housing
- Medical screening rooms
- Overflow space for the winter
- Youth housing for young adults (18-24) who are leaving foster care or struggling with substance abuse
It will also accommodate 112 people—significantly more than the 50-bed shelter located on 3rd Ave.