The City of Birmingham has named three finalists in the search for facilitators for the Home For All safe sleep pilot program for its chronically unhoused residents. After a nationwide call for proposals, AIDS Alabama, Faith Chapel Care Center, and Urban Alchemy were selected.
Their proposed projects will now be examined closer by the city, its stakeholders, and the community in deciding if one – or all – would best manage the city’s planned community of micro-shelters that include special wraparound services.
“These organizations have a stellar track record of supporting communities in need,” said Birmingham Mayor Randall L. Woodfin. “As we prepare to build this community of support for our unhoused residents, we are thrilled to be one step closer.”
In January, the city approved a $1 million bid for the purchase of micro-shelters that will be built by Pallet Shelter and assembled on a dedicated site for safe sleep, shelter, and support. The Department of Community Development then congregated a committee of community stakeholders to create a Request For Proposals for an organization to lead and house the program’s site. The collective held weekly meetings, made site visits, and also selected an architect and engineer to lead the design process.
“The conversation has been around what is the right site and what is the right size for our community,” said Dr. Meghan Venable-Thomas, director of Community Development. “It is also critically important that we prioritize making the design of the space feel healing and supportive. Every opportunity to build is an opportunity to heal. We are building to heal.”
The Times reported this month that on a given night in Birmingham, 847 are homeless and 465 are sheltered, according to oneroofonline.org. Those numbers include 100 homeless veterans consisting of 32 who are not in shelters; and 35 homeless families consisting of 99 individuals.
Candidates for the services were scored on experience, design, and operations, completed project value, project timeline, and exemplary performance. The finalists had the highest overall scores of the applicant pool.
AIDS Alabama, which is located in Ensley, proposes to be the site for 15-25 micro-shelters. They are a recognized leader in affordable housing for people living with HIV/AIDS. Some of the city’s most chronically unsheltered are at the intersection of multiple challenges, one of which includes being affected by the disease. Currently, the organization manages more than 100 units across the state.
Faith Chapel Care Center, which is located downtown, proposes to be the site for 10-15 micro-shelters. They are currently a hub for people experiencing homelessness. They provide ministry, limited medical services, free showers and laundry services as well as a computer room and referral services. They are leveraging multiple service providers that may not have collaborated in the past to provide wraparound services.
Urban Alchemy, which is based in San Francisco, Calif., proposes to select up to two sites for a combined 30-60 micro-shelters. They are a social enterprise nonprofit that provides career pathways for formerly incarcerated individuals. Their vision is to create a “Healing Village” housing model that includes an intentionally designed site and landscaping that creates a peaceful, safe environment for the residents, a service rich program model with care coordination. Currently, they provide services across the country.
Community meetings and some client interviews for the Home For All program have begun. Next, surveying and community outreach will take place. The goal is to identify multi-stakeholders (neighbors, guests, and potential clients as well as service providers) and do targeted communications to learn what they want to see on the individual sites.
Both AIDS Alabama and Faith Chapel Care Center propose a move-in date by the end of summer 2024. Urban Alchemy has a more comprehensive timeline, which would include finding up to two sites and a move-in date closer to early 2025.
“We get one chance to do it right,” Woodfin said. “This is a unique model that if we roll out too fast or too haphazardly we don’t get a do over. We plan to take our time so that our unhoused residents will get the very best. They deserve it.”
For more information, visit birminghamal.gov/homeforall.