CULLMAN – When you think of Victim Services of Cullman (VSOC), you probably know that their prime objective is to help rehabilitate and protect those that are victims of domestic violence. Their role in our community, however, reaches even more than what you might think with their services to those in the homeless population, which often goes hand-in-hand with domestic violence.
VSOC is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization funded by the United Way of Cullman County, grants and community contributions. They work through a variety of programs to educate, raise awareness and help those who are going through one of the most difficult points in their lives. According to Donna Jacobs, executive director of Victim Services, they also do a lot of work with the homeless population at large in the area.
“We belong to the Alabama Rural Coalition on Homelessness,” said Jacobs. “And we do try to keep up with the homeless population in Cullman. Basically we have all the problems of a larger city; they are just not as obvious. It would be unusual to see someone laying on the sidewalk panhandling here, but we do have a homeless population.”
Jacobs went on to say that while the economy is growing and helping with this problem, there are still many factors that play into homelessness.
“I think the economy growing will help,” Jacobs said.
“But when people get laid off or there is an illness, for one reason or another, they are unable to pay their rent anymore, and they end up homeless. A lot of homeless situations in Cullman comes from what is called ‘couch surfing’, but the government doesn’t allow us to include those in our numbers, but they are still homeless.”
One of the biggest, if not the biggest reason for homelessness in Cullman is due to domestic violence, Jacobs said.
“When people come to our shelter, they are homeless at that point,” said Jacobs.
“We also do a lot of work on education and outreach programs to combat this. It is because of our work with the Victim Services’ shelter, that we see firsthand how devastating homelessness can be. We get a lot of phone calls from members of the community about someone that is homeless or needs help to prevent their homelessness, but most of the homelessness we see is due to domestic violence. So if we can reduce domestic violence, then we can somewhat reduce the homeless population.”
Victim Services, along with other shelters in the community, work hard to offer as much assistance as possible to those in need.
According to Jacobs, the first step toward solving the problems our community faces on both domestic violence and homelessness is community awareness.
The 24-hour crisis hotline can be reached at 256-734-6100.