Like a lot of cities, the Greater Birmingham area reports hundreds of “unaccompanied” young people under the age of 24 on the streets on any given evening. To help solve this problem, AIDS Alabama is raising $3.5m to break ground this summer on the Way Station. This will be Birmingham’s first and only shelter for homeless youth. Keep reading for all the details, and find out how you can contribute now.
What is the Way Station?
- Birmingham’s only emergency, crisis stabilization shelter and transitional housing program designed specifically to meet the unique needs of homeless, runaway, and at-risk youth.
- A program of AIDS Alabama.
Why does it matter?
There are a lot of reasons young people become homeless. Unfortunately, sometimes home is actually the least safe place to be, so these young people will head out to escape a situation that feels worse than being on the streets.
Believe it or not, if you’re a homeless young person, it’s fairly easy to fly under the radar by day. Maybe you go to public school. Maybe you have a full-time job, but don’t earn enough to pay rent on an apartment, even if you’re old enough to sign a lease.
Many homeless young people know where to hang out to avoid authorities, who they fear will send them back into the very situations they left in the first place.
According to Caroline Bundy, Director of Development at AIDS Alabama, and spearhead of the Capital Campaign for the Way Station,
“A majority of homeless young people encountered on a typical night in Birmingham report sleeping ‘unsheltered,’ meaning they spend the night in a car, a tent, a house with no functioning utilities, or a park bench. Some will couch-surf until their welcome wears out.”
The risks are real
Once you’re out on the street, you face all kinds of trouble and all the risky behaviors you can imagine. Of course, the pandemic does nothing to help this situation.
Daily survival becomes priority number one, which means doing “whatever it takes” in exchange for a warm bed, a little money and food to eat.
In a situation like this, alcohol and drugs can become reliable companions, disease and poor health are almost guaranteed, and sex trafficking is a real possibility.
How will the Way Station help?
The Way Station will be a beautiful, home-like building with areas for learning, rest, relaxation and recreation for young people ages 18 to 24 years including:
- 20 beds in a temporary, overnight, safe place in a youth-only shelter AND
- meals, a shower, clean clothes, and a care plan for next steps and getting off the streets
- 20 beds in longer-term housing for up to two years AND
- supportive services including:
- enrollment into Birmingham City Schools or GED prep/education
- financial literacy courses
- job- and housing-readiness skills
- independent living skills
- physical and mental health care
- when ready, housing placement and assistance
- Outdoor recreation, including:
- A half-court basketball court
- Full commercial kitchen
- Clothing closet
You can help bring the Way Station to Life
AIDS Alabama is making plans to break ground on the Way Station in the summer of 2021. Here’s how you can help make it happen, whether you have $1 or $1,000 or $10,000 or $100,000 to give:
- Donate—be sure to designate the Way Station.
- Honor or memorialize a loved one with an engraved brick. Each 4”x8” brick is only $100.
- Questions? Contact Caroline Bundy.
Who’s behind the Way Station?
AIDS Alabama has already raised over $2.2M of a total campaign goal of $3.5M for this project.
The largest supporter to date is the City of Birmingham through HUD-administered grants:
- HOME Program grant
- CARES Act funding
The largest corporate and foundation grantors include:
- The Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham (who was the very first grantor)
- Regions Foundation
Next up contributors to the Way Station:
- Junior League of Birmingham
- The Ratliff Family Charitable Foundation
- Canterbury United Methodist Church
Stand-out gifts from individuals include:
- Cameron McDowell Vowell
- Anne and Mike Warren
- Julie and Gardner Lee
In addition, every member of the engineering and design team has given back to the program or significantly reduced their fees:
- Joseph McClure, CRE
- Stewart Perry
- Hendon + Huckestein
- LCS Designs
- MTTR Engineers
- Galloway & Associates
- Pinnacle Engineering
- Hyde Engineering