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.
Taking the first steps in a community-focused plan to combat homelessness, the city of Birmingham has signed on to purchase 50 units of transitional housing for the unsheltered.
The purchase, totaling nearly $1 million, is the first step in a program that will require significant participation from third-party nonprofits and for which details remain fuzzy.
Where the new shelters will be placed, for example, is still up in the air. That will be dependent on the results of a request-for-proposal process, through which local nonprofits can pitch locations and operational plans, including wraparound services they would offer on-site. Read more.