February 21, 2024
Decatur city homeless struggle to survive the freezing cold at night

MORGAN COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) — Ralph Ballentine says that his living situation in the freezing weather is something that no one would want to be in.  

“I don’t think I would have handled these last few nights but before then it was ok,” Ballentine said about the weather conditions. “I have a couple of blankets I put on me out there and the sleeping bag I use is pretty thick, so it keeps you pretty warm.” 

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He told News 19 that It’s too cold to sleep in the place where he normally does, on a bench that sits in front of the Decatur Public Library. 

“If I wasn’t at the library I’d probably be just out walking back and forth,” Ballentine said.

Ballentine is trying to navigate through the frigid temperatures while sleeping on the streets in Morgan County.  

He knows that the sub-freezing temperature tonight could be deadly and he’s thankful for the only warming shelter that he knows of at Hand Across Decatur (HAD).  

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“This place is a lifesaver right here tonight,” Ballentine said.  

To stay out of the cold and windy conditions, Morgan and Limestone County have few warming centers and an overnight stay for the homeless do not exist. 

“A lot of our homeless will come in and eat and go back to where they are living because that’s where their belongings are and leaving their home unlocked is not a good idea,” explained Sue Terell, director of HAD. “To them that’s their home and it’s unlocked. It’s unfortunate but we try to keep them off the tents and sleeping bags and as warm as we can.” 

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Terrell says Balentine and several others get a chance to get warm at Hands Across Decatur until 11 p.m.

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But due to a city ordinance, he and the other unhoused will have to find another place to sleep and that may be outdoors.  

Morgan and Limestone County has very little services for the unhoused population, making life both difficult and tough to survive the freezing cold. 

Terrell admits that her most difficult job as a homeless advocate is assisting the unhoused population when the weather conditions are so unbearable. 

“They have nowhere to go so what do you do?” Terrell asked. “I’m not just going to leave them out there to die. Something must change.” 

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