Category: City of Birmingham

In the Shadow of Brother Bryan: Homeless Living in Park Draw Ire, Sympathy

Sometimes the tears welled up in Brother Bryan’s eyes

The Rev. James Alexander Bryan, a Princeton-educated pastor, is known in Birmingham as an advocate for those facing homelessness.

“They are all dying for a little bit of love, for a kind word, for a warm handshake,” Brother Bryan was quoted in the book “Religion in Shoes” as saying of those he served. “Beneath that torn coat or ragged shawl, the life may be torn, but there is a soul for whom Jesus died.”

This week, Terrance Smith sat in a Birmingham park named after Brother Bryan. Smith is among hundreds facing unsheltered homelessness in and around Birmingham, many of whom frequent the city’s parks, including Brother Bryan in the Five Points neighborhood.

Earlier this month, Birmingham city councilors discussed individuals facing homelessness in Brother Bryan Park after a member of the public asked that city officials do more to address what he described as a “real problem.”

“It’s just horrifying what goes on over there,” Councilor Valerie Abbott said at the body’s meeting on Aug. 8. “There are people living in the park, and no other people will go in there.”

On Tuesday afternoon, Smith reacted to the council’s comments, saying he felt some of the discussion was offensive. Councilors, Smith said, should “get to know their neighbors.”

“I think they’re wrong,” Smith said, an etching of Brother Bryan on a stone facade just a stone’s throw away. “They just push us aside like we’re not people, but they forget. God created me. God created them. So what’s the difference?” Read more.

With Increased Revenue, Woodfin’s Budget Proposal Targets Neighborhoods, Youth, Pay Raises and Transportation

Mayor Randall Woodfin revealed his proposed budget for the 2024 fiscal year on Tuesday, highlighting its “laser focus commitment” on neighborhood revitalization and youth support services.

The proposed $554.8 million budget is significantly larger than last year’s $522.3 million budget, thanks in part to projected increases in business tax revenue (up $12.3 million from last year) and property tax revenue (up $2.8 million). But Woodfin’s proposed budget reflects few differences in priority from the previous year. Read more.

Birmingham to Give $850K to 8 Nonprofits

Eight Birmingham nonprofits will receive $850,000 in funding from the city’s Building Opportunities for Lasting Development grant program.

Before Mayor Randall Woodfin instituted the BOLD initiative in 2018, Birmingham’s contributions to nonprofits were included as line items in the city’s operating budget. Now, the city’s Department of Innovation and Economic Opportunity distributes $1 million in nonprofit funding via an application process.

All eight organizations receiving funding are minority- or woman-led, and five are first-time recipients. Read more.

Birmingham Kicks Off New Garbage Pickup Plan

Birmingham has begun to deliver garbage carts to city residents in the first phase of its plans to change garbage pickup in the city.

The Department of Public Works will deliver about 20,000, free, 96-gallon garbage carts among the city’s four waste management districts over the next four weeks. Plans are to deliver about 100,000 uniform garbage carts through next year. Read more.

Birmingham Council Discusses Changing the Neighborhood Association Structure

Several Birmingham City councilors on Tuesday called for significant changes to the city’s current organization of neighborhood associations.

Discussion over an item setting neighborhood elections for Oct. 18, later passed by the council, veered into a discussion of councilors’ broader dissatisfaction with the system. Most of that centered on low attendance at neighborhood meetings, leading to uncontested elections.

District 5 Councilor Darrell O’Quinn, a former president of the Crestwood North neighborhood, suggested that there were “other ways of devising a system that provides representation and embraces the reality that even though there may be hundreds of residents in a neighborhood, there’s only ever going to be a handful of people who actually engage in neighborhood-level conversations.” O’Quinn added that many neighborhood leaders are elected almost by default because no one else signs up to run. Read more.