The Mobile City Council approved a slew of grant funds Tuesday to help the city’s homeless population.
The majority of the $166,609 grant from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development will go to the Salvation Army’s Safe Haven shelter, which serves homeless families. With the $99,000 in funding, the shelter will remain open, Salvation Army Director of Programming Angel Steadman said.
“We are grateful for the money,” she said. “Without it we’d be facing a tough decision.”
The 15-unit facility allows families to stay a minimum of 90 days with their expenses covered, Steadman said.
“We provide everything they need, including free legal assistance,” she said.
Students from The University of Alabama School of Medicine provide a free clinic and the shelter provides weekly classes on budgeting, finances, job readiness, parenting and other subjects, Steadman said.
Another $55,100 of the grant funding will go to the Family Counseling Center to help prevent homelessness. Roughly $12,000 of the money will be used by Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s administration.
Wings of Life, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility and ministry located downtown, serves meals to the homeless every Saturday and did so on Saturday, April 14, as part of its One Body Campus Collaboration program, minister-in-training Cameron Shaw said.
On April 14, the ministry served 50 to 60 meals to homeless men and women downtown as part of the program, Shaw said.
“It was pretty awesome,” he said.
While the program got students from the Alabama School of Math and Science and Bishop State Community College involved, the facility serves the homeless every Saturday, Shaw said.
“It’s important for us to give back, especially for our former addicts,” he said. “We were once there. There’s a sense of gratitude there.”
The need has increased, Shaw said, as 15 Place has limited and in many cases stopped its ancillary services.
“When I was homeless, 15 Place was a way to get off the street,” Shaw said. “It’s not there anymore.”
In other business, the City Council approved a change order of more than $60,000 with Thompson
Engineering to repave Water Street before it is re-striped, in an effort to revitalize that area of downtown to allow for more pedestrian- and bike-friendly areas along the roadway.
City spokesman George Talbot said once the street is resurfaced and the re-striping begins, the city will begin to reconfigure the street to remove lanes as part of the project.
The council also approved a $150,000 contract with Clark Personnel as part of the Youth Empowered for Success (YES) summer internship program. While the contract pays Clark the money used to pay the interns, the organization will charge the city a fee equivalent to 10 percent of the $7.25 per hour minimum wage the city is paying the interns.
After what was at times a contentious discussion, the council held over, per its rules, an agreement with the Mobile Airport Authority worth $125,000 for dredging related to the installation of a barge docking facility at Arlington Point.
The item is part of an initial agreement the city and the authority signed with Airbus when the final assembly line located in Mobile. The county is also on the hook for $125,000, with Airbus paying for expenses related to the dredging that exceed $250,000 total, attorney Patrick Dungan told councilors.
There was initially some confusion over what the state law requires from advertising for economic development projects like this one. The discussion led to a testy back-and-forth between Councilman John Williams and city attorney Ricardo Woods after the former accused the sponsors of the item of not properly submitting everything to City Clerk Lisa Lambert and causing confusion because no public hearing had been scheduled.
Interrupting WIlliams, Woods said his statement was “inaccurate,” to which Williams responded “I’m not talking to you” and Woods responded “I’m talking to you.”
Williams then told Woods to get in order.
After reading the pertinent portion of state law aloud, council attorney Wanda Cochran determined the city had submitted all the necessary requirements to the council and no public hearing was required.
The council plans to vote on the item next week. The Mobile County Commission approved a similar item Tuesday.
As previously reported by Lagniappe, the dock will allow Airbus and other manufacturers at Brookley to bring larger components to the port through a roll-on, roll-off facility before being loaded onto a barge and brought directly to the authority property.
Speaking as a citizen, Mobile Police Department officer John Young asked the council to help send a message to black men to stop killing black women. Using 15-year-old shooting victim Anesa Baker as an example, Young implored the council to try to do more to stop gun violence, especially among youth. Already, he said, five black women have been killed this year and the city is on pace to have 15 black women die by year-end.
Councilman Fred Richardson compared the issue to typhoid fever, where when a root cause — the mosquito — was discovered, it was eradicated. One of the causes of gun violence among youth and others, he said, is the school dropout rate and the drug trade. Richardson lambasted the failed “war on drugs” as one of the problems.
“We didn’t win that war,” he said. “We filled the jail up and failed to prevent the proliferation of drugs.”
Richardson also implored the federal government to send National Guard troops into drug-infested communities instead of to the Southern border.
Richardson also mentioned that four of the nine Mobile County schools listed as “failing” were in his district and said he can do nothing to fix the problem, as a councilor. He reminded those in attendance that the students aren’t failures.
“The system has failed them,” Richardson said of the students. “The parents have failed them.”
Councilman C.J. Small said Young’s effort would require more than the work of the seven members of the council. He said the administration and the public would have to be involved as well.
Council Vice President Levon Manzie made a plea to “every young black male” to put down guns and look into counseling services or seek help from older generations, especially if it involves relationship issues “with your young ladies.”