Support center building, growing options for Huntsville's homele - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

Support center building, growing options for Huntsville's homeless

Director Clete Wetli offers patrons the ability to learn about carpentry and gardening at the center. (Source: WAFF) Director Clete Wetli offers patrons the ability to learn about carpentry and gardening at the center. (Source: WAFF)
First Stop will hold a benefit Sept. 28 (Source: First Stop) First Stop will hold a benefit Sept. 28 (Source: First Stop)
HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) -

Homeless organizations in Huntsville have their hands full this summer.

Groups like "First Stop" said they've seen a surge in the number of people looking for help since Huntsville's Tent City was taken down. It's inspired them to do more.

We told you last week that things seem to be improving when it comes to the homeless. And they have in a way - Huntsville police said they have fewer complaints and the homeless have avoided camping on private property.

But organizations here said the homeless have just spread out, and now many more are looking for help.

From the tents and boxes, it's clear no one has nailed down how solve the homeless problem.

But nail by nail, one man is trying.

"In a month's time we serve close to 2,000 meals," said First Stop Director Clete Wetli.

And that number continues to rise.

"What we've seen is a population that's really gone further into the woods," Wetli explained in regards to those who once called Tent City their place to congregate.

The need is greater. Wetli said morning attendance at the support center used to be between 10-15; it has since "exploded," in his words, to around 60.

However, at First Stop in Huntsville, food is not the focus. It's work, education, and other tools needed to survive.

Wetli said in just the last few months, First Stop began handing over the hammer and brush to their guests, enabling them to build and craft projects they can sell. He said changes are happening outside too.

"We've leveled out the ground a little bit and started to sink some posts," he said. What is currently a pile of rubble will soon be a greenhouse, full of vegetables and fruit that will be served at First Stop.

It was an idea a guest came up with and a project the homeless will help manage, enabling them to learn new skills.

"While they are looking for work, there is no reason they can't be doing productive things," Wetli said.

Of course, the community plays a big part in helping the homeless get on their feet. First Stop is hoping to raise $80,000 to help with their support services. They are holding a benefit Sept. 28 at The Roundhouse from 1-5 p.m. You can visit their website for more information.

Copyright 2014 WAFF. All rights reserved.

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