Birmingham Without Walls

Homeless in Birmingham

Hamilton-Schumacher frequently tells the story of the best newspaper seller he ever met.

“If all our time invested in The Voice came down to one story and one life that was changed, this would justify it all,” he said.

“The story is of this man that came to us. I don’t remember his name,” Hamilton-Schumacher said. “He was a builder—a contractor—living paycheck to paycheck.

“He came from up north and all of his jobs were numbers in his phone and he lost his phone one day. And losing his phone created a snowball effect. This guy who had been his primary contact wasn’t able to communicate with him and probably interpreted his silence as the inability to follow up on a job.

“He lost his work and was evicted from his apartment. Because he had no money coming in, he lost his car insurance. Since he was no longer able to drive it, he sold it because he needed cash. He eventually ended up on the streets. And he is a skilled builder that—because of the loss of his phone—ended up on the streets.”

Hamilton said those circumstances play out over and over; one mistake or one slip sentences people to years of poverty to be served on a street corner or in transitional housing. In the city of Birmingham, the rate of unemployment is 5.4, comparable to 5.0 in Atlanta and 5.2 in New York and a half a percentage point higher than the national average.

“I feel that homelessness is systemic and there are not only current but also historical events that have led to what we are experiencing today,” Hamilton-Schumacher said. “There are individuals in this city who are living paycheck to paycheck.

This is the fourth installment of a five-part series. 

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

Birmingham Without Walls

A Voice for the Homeless

Ryan Hamilton-Schumacher and his wife, Hope, noticed a hole in Birmingham. When the couple relocated to Birmingham from Nashville in 2009, they noticed a clear division between two communities in the city.

“We recognized the privilege that we didn’t earn, but were born into,” Hamilton-Schumacher said. “That privilege unfairly gave us a larger voice than others.”

The computer programmer and his wife, a doula, decided to fill that hole by creating a newspaper catering to Birmingham’s homeless community.

“We wanted to provide a medium for those who didn’t have a voice to have a voice, whether it was creative writing, poetry, drawing or reporting on occurrences in the city,” Hamilton-Schumacher said.

The street paper, aptly named The Voice, was a carefully designed business model intended to lead Birmingham’s impoverished citizens back into the work force.

“What we saw as a problem was that if you’re experiencing homelessness, it’s difficult to earn a job. Employers ask for all these key pieces of information that someone who is homeless will not have,” Hamilton-Schumacher said.

“So, this was an avenue to reintroduce individuals to the job market. We wanted to be able to provide some infrastructure to their work and help them earn their own money. They also have someone to put as a reference. We say it is a tool to help individuals pursue other jobs.”

Hamilton-Schumacher said that combatting homelessness begins with employing people who are experiencing homelessness. According to Hamilton-Schumacher, the inability to maintain a reliable source of income aggravates the cycle of homelessness.

“There is a large community of people in the religious community that want to help homeless and houseless people, with all the best intentions in the world,” he said, “but the issue of homelessness cannot be solved just by giving money and feeding people. You can’t rent an apartment, pay for food and send your children to daycare while working at McDonald’s. There is no way to survive. You have to get more than one job, but you won’t be there for your family.”

This is the third installment of a five-part series. 

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

Green Eggs in the ‘Ham: Gyro Edition

Birmingham is a city filled with history, culture, and food. While we’re not complaining that new restaurants open around town all the time, it’s hard to choose where to eat when there are countless options right in front of you. But don’t worry! The Local is here to help you find the most authentic and trendiest spots to grab a bite the next time you’re looking to eat out.

gyro

Original Gyro, Glory Bound Gyro Co.

Greek food in the South can be hard to come by, but Glory Bound Gyro Co. brings its Mediterranean twist right to Birmingham. Owners, Will Taylor and Chris McDonald, found inspiration for this Mediterranean-style restaurant while traveling in Greece. It’s been a hit since they opened the first Glory Bound in Hattiesburg, Mississippi in 2009.  

Glory Bound opened in downtown Birmingham during the summer of 2015 right along the new Rotary Trail corridor. The blend between Mediterranean dishes and American concepts create familiar recipes, and the open, light atmosphere draws customers in.

“Our uniqueness in this kind of business really sets us apart,” said manager Parker Smith.

So what should you get? If you are new to the gyro game, then the Original Gyro is for you. The lamb and beef filled tortilla is topped with lettuce, onions, and tzatziki sauce.  The meat and sauce pair well together as you get a blend of both sweet and savory flavors, creating a simplistic taste that will leave you wanting more.

If you’re adventurous with your food, the award-winning Pepperjack Gyro is sure to call your name. Topped with bacon, pepper jack cheese, and comeback sauce, this gyro will surely never disappoint.

Have you found a restaurant that you think we should try? Email us at hdiamond@samford.edu.

Welcome to The Local

Mission Statement:  The Local provides contemporary coverage and insight on a historical city from a youthful perspective. We foster a culture that challenges young people to engage in the growth around them. The Local captures powerful moments that reflect the vibrant character of the Magic City.

This mission statement provides focus that aligns our team as we work to create The Local. It embodies our desire collectively, and as individual journalists. Each member of our team offers unique talents and perspectives that enable us to see deeper and discover untapped writing potential.

Birmingham is beaming with vibrant character that has found its place in history. The Local is inspired by the city of Birmingham and the way it is constantly reinventing itself. Birmingham is ever evolving alongside the inhabitants of this city. The Local is inspired by these people’s stories, their goals and defeats, and how they converge to shape this diverse culture.

We believe that stories matter because people matter.  These stories are just glimpses we have captured and now want to share with you, the reader.  Our goal is to capture the human experience in a way that the reader can connect with deeply as we aim to bring moments to life through vivid colors, details and striking stories.

The re-launch of our website thelocalbham.com is an overflow of our growing vision for the magazine.  In this continuing narrative, we hope to paint a picture on this online canvas.  Continue to follow our progress and growth here.  All that we ask of you, the reader, is that you experiment, engage and allow yourself to be enchanted by the “Magic City.”

IT’S HERE!

The Local magazine is holding a launch party today from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Ben Brown Plaza to celebrate the debut of its Spring 2016 print edition. In conjunction with Sojourn, Samford University’s literary publication, Local staff members will be handing out magazines and churros– a nod to Thursday’s Cinco de Mayo holiday.

After switching the publication’s name from Exodus to The Local at the beginning of the 2015-2016 academic year, magazine staff members have sought to report on stories that highlight the trending people, places and organizations that contribute to Birmingham’s unique flavor. The Spring 2016 edition marks The Local’s second published volume

Samford Gives Back

This Saturday, April 16 from 8a.m. – 1 p.m. join Samford University’s in giving back to the community of Birmingham as the Samford Gives Back campus-wide initiative seeks to serve the city.

Students from sororities, fraternities, and different organizations across campus will come together Saturday morning in Samford University’s Sievert gym to receive their assignments before going out into the community. Many students don’t know what they will be doing that day, but they come with open hands and eager hearts to serve wherever there is a need.

The Frances Marlin Mann Center for Ethics and Leadership will be sponsoring the initiative by partnering with local organizations. This year’s theme is “love your neighbor” and that is exactly what the Samford community will be doing that day. This initiative is not required for any student but more than 600 students come out to serve every year and each year the number surpasses the last.

Spring Festivals

The weather is warming up, which means that the outdoor festival season is just beginning. There are so many food, music, and cultural festivals happening in Birmingham. You can experience so much without ever having to leave the city. We came up with a list of just a few that are coming up over the next few weeks.

2016 Alabama Asian Cultures and Food Festival 
April 9, 2016, 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Zamora Shrine Temple
3521 Ratliff Road, Irondale

              This festival has been hosted by the Alabama Asian Cultures Foundation for 8 years now. There will be many different music and dance performances and art displays. A a food court  will be open from 11:15 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. serving many different kinds of Asian cuisines. Admission is 8 dollars for adults and 5 dollars for teens, veterans, and college students with ID.

18th Annual Lebanese Food and Cultural Festival
April 8 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.  abd April 9 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
St. Elias Maronite Church
836 8th Street S, Birmingham

      This two day event hosted by the St. Elias Maronite Church community is not to be missed.  Traditional Lebanese food such as kibbee, grape leaves, tabouleh, grilled chicken, homus, baklawa will be served. There will also be dancing and music performances. Admission is free. 

Bhamburger Battle
April 15 6 .m. to 9 p.m
Cahaba Brewing Company
2616 3rd Ave South, Birmingham

       Birmingham’s inaugural burger competition will have 4 local chefs. There will be  a live auction and music and proceeds will go to Crestwood Day School. The cost is 25 dollars which includes 4 slider sized burgers, bag of chips and a drink. 

Turkish Food Festival 2016
April 16 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.  and April 17 12 a.m. to 6 a.m.
Istanbul Cultural Center
2146 Centennial Dr, Hoover

Traditional Turkish food will be served and there will also be a raffle for traditional Turkish gifts. Admission to the festival is free, however you must pay for food.

Barons Bash presented by Vulcan Material
April 16 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Railroad Park
1600 1st Ave S, Birmingham

      Celebrate the first Barons game at Railroad Park There will be food, inflatables and games. The event is free and some events will be ticketed. All proceeds will go to the Railroad Park Foundation.

Samford Baseball Hosts UAB

The Samford University baseball team will host the University of Alabama at Birmingham on Tuesday, March 1, at Joe Lee Griffin Field.

The Bulldogs (5-3) enter the game coming off a challenging four-game series that saw the team go 1-3 against Brigham Young University.

UAB carries a 3-4 record into the mid-afternoon game, having won two of its past three contests. Over the weekend, the Blazers picked up a pair of victories over Ohio University.

At the plate, Samford is led by junior right fielder Heath Quinn and senior catcher Richard Greene. Quinn tops the Bulldog lineup with seven home runs, 18 RBI and a .545 batting average. Notably, he’s been named Southern Conference Player of the Week each of the past two weeks. Greene currently boasts a .440 batting average, having laced 11 hits in 25 at-bats.

First pitch for Tuesday’s matchup is scheduled for 3 p.m.

Look inside a new creamery in Birmingham

Opening an ice cream shop wasn’t in Ryan and Geri-Martha O’Hara’s immediate plans. But a year and a half ago, those plans changed.

The O’Hara’s always had a passion for food, especially ice cream. Both had worked as professional chefs for eight years; in fact, the couple met while working together at Bottega Café, a local Italian restaurant.

Opening a creamery was a dream of theirs, but a dream they thought they might pursue a few years down the road. But after just three months of marriage, the O’Hara’s realized they had nothing to lose and decided to dive head first into their dream of opening a creamery, and Big Spoon Creamery was born.

“It was difficult at first,” Ryan said. “We knew what we wanted to do and how we wanted to do it, but it was kind of a ‘Well how do we do this with no resources’ situation.”

In July 2014, they opened a pop-up shop, a temporary stand, in their driveway in Hoover, and the reaction it got was unexpected at the least.

Southern Living wrote a blog post about the couple’s ice cream, and from that day they never looked back.

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Just a year after planting their business at the end of their driveway, the couple now owns one of the most popular creameries in Birmingham.

Despite their success, or perhaps because of it, the O’Hara’s have stayed true to that early business model. Big Spoon adopted the idea of a pop-up shop for their business. On any given day, you can find their cart somewhere in Birmingham.

They market and let their customers know where they’ll be located that day on their social media sites. They also have a membership club that delivers two pints of ice cream a month to your doorstep. But, what’s made them famous is their sandwiches. The sandwiches are composed of a scoop of handcrafted ice cream squished between two freshly baked cookies.

“The ice cream sandwiches are kind of our bread and butter,” said Ryan. “That’s our staple and what we’ve become known for.”

Unusual flavors and specialty ingredients also contribute to Big Spoon’s popularity. As the seasons begin to change, the couple starts coming up with new flavors to produce. Up for fall are Pumpkin Cream Cheese Gingersnap and Georgia Nell’s Pecan Pie

“Georgia Nell was my grandmother’s name,” O’Hara said. “I’m not saying this because I’m biased, but she really makes the best pecan pie I’ve ever had.”

The O’Hara’s value using local ingredients in their ice cream. They not only try to reach out to local produce and dairy farmers, but also local artisans like Octane, a coffee shop and bar in Homewood.

“We try to work with other local artisans and people who put as much care into their product as we do,” O’Hara said.

But beyond the dream of opening Big Spoon was the hope to serve people.

“If we’re known for having great ice cream, that’s great, and I hope we are,” O’Hara said. “But really more than that we just want to be known for serving people well and treating people well, and that’s all we could really care about.”

The concept of Big Spoon was created out of the couple’s dream, and that dream extends farther than just ice cream. It means enriching the communities of the Steel City and bringing people joy through a simple treat.

“If we can do something special for people in even a small way and touch people’s lives, that’s really all that matters to us,” O’Hara said. “That’s the best part: meeting people, talking to people, sharing our story with people and getting to know people on a personal level, whether it’s our sellers or our customers, whatever it might be, that’s the best part, easily.”

Instagram, @bigspoonbham

Twitter, @BigSpoonBHAM

Facebook, Big Spoon Creamery

 

What’s On 2nd?

The store is located on 2nd Ave. N. in the heart of downtown Birmingham. Since its opening in 2007, What’s on 2nd has gained a reputation for being a high-quality antique shop that offers a variety of products and the feeling of nostalgia that can be found looking through the store.

Owned by Steve Gilmer and Michele Wilson, has many antiques to offer to customers, such as vintage postcards, t-shirts, toys and various collectibles.

Gilmer said he liked the location due to the aesthetic appeal of the store as well as where it is in the city.

The shop has become one of many stores to pop up in downtown Birmingham over the last few years in an attempt to make use of some of the older, previously abandoned buildings in the area.

What’s on 2nd has become special thanks to the wide stock of products. Rather than just focusing on one area like a lot of antique stores, What’s on 2nd appeals to many people.

“Some of the more popular products include the cameras and vintage postcards,” Gilmer said.

Upon walking into the store, a customer can find hundreds of postcards from various states dating back many decades.

The store is also filled with past political campaign memorabilia spanning the last five decades of presidential campaigns from Dwight Eisenhower ads to John Kerry posters.

Going upstairs to the second floor, one will find various toys hanging on the wall from popular movies such as Star Wars and X-Men. There are books, comics and pictures of Birmingham taken decades ago. One will also find vintage records by artists such as Elton John and the Bees Gees. Even the store’s restroom is covered in Elvis memorabilia.

“I’ve seen people from New York and California come in and say they don’t have anything like this store there,” Gilmer said.

There is a market for antiques in the Birmingham community and having a store located in a populated area has helped it succeed over the last seven years.

What’s on 2nd is the type of store that is fun to just look around and admire aspects of life decades ago.