A letter from the Southern Poverty Law Center representing six other advocacy groups says the city of Huntsville is preparing to evict homeless residents from the Derrick North homeless camp and urges city officials to stop the eviction until adequate housing will not be available for displaced residents.
The letter, sent Thursday to five-member city council and Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, also claims that the evictions, if initiated, would violate updated federal guidelines from the U.S. Center for Disease Control and the Inter-agency Council of States. United on homelessness prevention and a potential violation of the constitutional rights of the homeless resident.
The groups represented by the SPLC in the Thursday letter include the National Homelessness Law Center, the Alabama ACLU, Love Huntsville, Vote Huntsville, Huntsville Bail Fund, and Alabama Arise.
“According to reports from Derrick North camp residents, the city of Huntsville plans to evict its current residents and close the camp without first securing individual housing for all camp residents,” the SPLU said in the report. letter Thursday. “The displacement of camp residents threatens their health and lives and may violate the constitutional rights of camp residents.”
City officials have yet to respond to a request for comment sent since April Thursday afternoon.
Individuals living in the Derrick North camp, according to the SPLC, include many disabled residents with reduced mobility and other special health needs. The SPLC said Huntsville has not announced “any special arrangements to assist those residents with their relocation in the event the camp is closed.”
“An eviction without an adequate housing plan could result in the loss of critical medicines and devices that disabled people rely on for their daily survival.” The SPLC said this in its letter Thursday.
The updated CDC guidelines, as quoted by the SPLC in their letter Thursday, suggest that “[i]If individual housing solutions are not available, allow people living without shelter or in camps to stay where they are ”. as evacuation of camps can disperse the already at-risk population of homeless individuals away from health service providers. The letter also cites a USICH federal public notice, published in May. 25., which categorically states that “removing camps without providing access to low barrier shelters and a range of housing options does not work” in responding to a growing population of homeless individuals.
According to statistics compiled by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, an estimated 561 people were homeless in Huntsville and surrounding areas in 2020. USICH statistics estimate that a total of 3,351 people were homeless in 2020.
“We urge the city to cancel the eviction of the Derrick North camp until adequate, ethical and permanent solutions are provided to our homeless community,” the letter states. “We demand that the city develop and publish short- and long-term plans that provide rapid relocation, transitional housing, permanent supportive housing and affordable housing. These camp closures do not help end homelessness and instead build up more barriers this community faces. Huntsville should develop a proactive approach to support its vulnerable citizens who are struggling to secure stable housing, instead of continuing the pattern of punishing and criminalizing these citizens. “