Message from the Coalition for Homeless People with a Mental Illness or Substance Abuse

Agenda For November 28




 First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta, 1328 Peachtree Street, NE, 30309

United Way's VP and Executive Director of the Regional Commission on Homelessness has made it clear publicly he has no plans to open any men’s night shelters no matter how Judge Schwall rules on the efforts to evict the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless from its 500 bed shelter. That decision is pending and it is unknown when the court will hear the appeal.


When the Peachtree-Pine "overflow facility" closes, the only plan the RCoH has is to transition the current residents into transitional many months ago in a separate interview that the United Way's Streets to Homes program possibly could find 25 transitional beds a week for the men and acknowledged that most shelter beds would already be filled, which would mean occupying floor space. Mr. Biswas said “We know we can do small manageable numbers of 20 to 25, but if there are more than that it will have to be a drastic solutions of throwing mats on the floor.


Really?  Get this: There were 2171 emergency shelter beds for individuals in 2005  but only 2012 in 2011, representing 9% fewer beds. Despite all the rhetoric about how important transitional housing is and outstanding progress being made, only 80 additional transitional housing beds  for individuals were added between 2005 and 2011--from 1825 to 1905. The number of unsheltered individuals rose by 12%, from 2085 to 2336. Source: Tri-J housing inventory chart and the Tri-J population/subpopulation reports. 


There's more: The 2011 homeless census report  commented that “…over the past two years, the sheltered numbers showed a decrease in people staying in emergency shelters and transitional housing programs” and goes on to say “over the past two years  there has been an increase of 10%  to an all-time high of homeless people sleeping outdoors. Another part of the 2011 report expressed concern that the record high unsheltered count—2378-- was especially high among single men.”  Well, there were fewer beds in 2011 compared to previous years for individuals.


The mother of all plans to end homelessness in Atlanta--the 2003 plan to end, not just manage homelessness by 2013 (next June) currently has more homeless individuals unsheltered than in emergency shelters.


From a distance.....many of our homeless leaders and even outreach workers too often view the hundreds of single men milling about the Peachtree-Pine shelter, who stand by droves in soup lines and live 24/7/365 on the streets as shiftless individuals who are too lazy to work and choose to be homeless.  But, the official homeless census and survey report--identify 3573 homeless people as "chronic substance abusers" and 3093 as "severely mentally ill."  Up close and personal, for those who take the time, discover the enormous burden many homeless people carry that prevent them from escaping from the streets and shelters and transitional housing because the services they need are simply not available and no one anywhere has made a solid gaps analysis. 


It is our goal to make the public aware of the plight of homeless men and women, especially those who are unsheltered and who are sick, disabled and elderly.


We do not intend to rest until United Way, its RCoH and Mayor Reed fulfill Goal B of the 2003 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness in Atlanta in Ten Years: 


Goal B: Ensure that all persons who are living within the city of Atlanta have access to emergency shelter and other supportive services within 12 hours of a request for assistance.


We will on November 29 discuss the pros and cons regarding the critical need for Mayor Reed and the Regional Commission on Homelessness to begin right now the process of proving safe, clean, accessible emergency shelter--with robust services-- for single men to replace the Peachtree-Pine Overflow Facility. It is unconscionable that no action is being taken to replace this shelter which the court about which the court says “the record is replete with evidence that the property is in deplorable physical condition and cannot offer adequate benefit to the less fortunate members of society, he very persons whom the property is mandated to serve."  However, if it were not for the Peachtree-Pine Shelter about 400-600 or more homeless people would be on the streets in the rain, in the cold, all night long. Without Peachtree-Pine there would be no day shelter for hundreds of people who are disabled and have no where else to go.  It is shameful that we have not acted already. It should not matter what the appeals court decides. To many it seems  obvious the excellent transition effort that was underway when the eviction of the Task Force was imminent should be resumed as soon as possible. An important part of our discussion will center around the 2009 official Tri-J census report which  revealed " 31% of street people were at risk of dying while homeless and "28% “Of survey respondents said  they had  been the victim of a violent attack”. Source: 2009 Tri-J homeless survey report.


We urge representatives from the RCoH, the Mayor’s office and the Task Force for the Homeless to participate in our November 29 frank and open discussion so we can determine the  course of action that is in the best interests of the most vulnerable of our homeless people.


We are especially interested in hearing arguments against offering shelters for all until all are offered transitional housing or permanent housing. We also want to know of any misinformation or misleading or incorrect data we have presented.  We know all of us want to do what is best for our homeless people and we respect everyone's opinions. We will offer additional information in advance of our November 29 meeting to justify our homeless leaders 1. opening enough new night shelters for single men and women and beginning the process as quickly as possible to transition all the men wherever they may be from the streets and from Peachtree-Pine into safe, clean, accessible emergency shelter where robust services can be offered, with priority given to those who are the most impaired and 2. open an accessible day shelter to replace the one now available at Peachtree-Pine if the shelter is ordered to be closed by the court.


Our coalition agrees strongly with the statement in the 2003 10-year plan that states so clearly our position:   

“Emergency shelters  have become critical resources for communities working with homeless people and serve as the  point of entry into the homeless system”.   


Please plan to attend our meeting on November 28 and share your views, First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta.

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Prayer for the people of Beirut

Light of new hope

God of refuge,
hear our prayer
as we hold the people of Beirut
in our hearts at this time.
Fill us with compassion
and move us to reach out in love.

In your mercy,
bring comfort to those who mourn,
healing to those who are injured,
shelter to those who are homeless
sustenance to those who hunger.

Give strength to those who are working
to rebuild shattered lives,
and protect those who are vulnerable
especially in a time of coronavirus.

Lead us in your ways
so that together we may bring
the light of new hope
wherever there is destruction and despair.

We ask this through Christ our Lord, Amen.

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