Tent cluster off I-20/59 highlights growing population lacking proper housing

Just off Interstate 20/59 at Exit 73 sits a growing spot for those who have no other place to call home, but some Tuscaloosa organizations are working on ensuring the residents there have what they need to survive.

WVUA 23 visited the area Wednesday and saw water bottles, trash and clothes littered around the area and ground. Before noon, there were two people at the location. Later in the day, though, that number rose to at least a half-dozen.

But the people living there are making the best of their situation and doing what they must to survive, residents of the location said.

“Dont judge everybody out here on these streets because everybody is not a bad person,” said Haley Shirley, who has been living without a home for the past 11 years. After he was released from prison, he said, he found it impossible to get housing or a job.

Now, as the Tuscaloosa heat flirts with 100-degree heat indexes, Shirley and his girlfriend often take shelter in the shade under their blue-tarp canopy to escape as much of the sweltering heat and humidity as they can.

“I wish I could find something better,” Shirley said. I’ve been in a lot of trouble, but I try to do what’s right. Every day I try. I struggle.”

Temporary Emergency Services Street Outreach Coordinator Tempra Harris said they’re doing what they can to help these people. In fact, TES recently purchased bus tickets to Louisiana for three people who lived in the area.

Harris said her team at TES regularly performs wellness checks on communities just like this one, ensuring they have the items they need to stay healthy and safe or get resources like temporary housing and job-finding assistance.

“There were some tents set up and they had appliances to prepare food,” Harris said. “They had makeshift beds and they had other things like trash cans, almost set up like a nomad housing situation.”

TES is always looking for donations and volunteers. You can learn more right here.

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