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What Happens When Atlanta Closes Its Largest Shelter?
September 28, 2017
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It’s been several months since a settlement between the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless and Central Atlanta Progress (CAP) effectively numbered the days of Atlanta’s largest homeless shelter, Peachtree-Pine. Although headlines of lawsuits and health concerns plagued the shelter over the years,  Peachtree-Pine nonetheless served hundreds each night as a notably low barrier shelter, which is generally marked by having few stipulations that might otherwise exclude a person from staying at a shelter—such as a mental health condition or drug usage.

The recent timeline of Peachtree-Pine’s closure looks like this:

  • On August 28, ownership of the building was transferred to CAP.
  • As of September 1, Peachtree-Pine has stopped accepting new applicants.
  • Although the shelter will inevitably close, CAP will continue to operate the facility as a homeless shelter until all who currently stay there are provided with access to the resources and care they need.
  • Currently the City of Atlanta and United Way have raised $50 million to renovate existing shelters, create more shelter space, and expand transitional housing.

How Nonprofits are Banding Together
This is where Living Room comes in. Since the beginning of September, case managers from Living Room and a consortium of other local nonprofits have been doing outreach at Peachtree-Pine to help its residents locate other housing options. Even one person falling between the cracks during the shelter closure is one too many.

Even one person falling between the cracks during the shelter closure is one too many.

We’ve worked closely with Crossroads Community Ministries,  Atlanta Harm Reduction Coalition (AHRC), and the Fulton Country Department of Health to help connect us to residents of Peachtree-Pine who are living with HIV because, as you might imagine, stigma against HIV is just as present in homeless shelters as it is anywhere else (but Living Room is taking serious steps with Georgia Equality and Gilead to change all that). When folks rightfully associate Living Room with HIV services, outreach becomes a bit dicier logistically. Connecting folks to housing services is critical, but fostering a safe space for someone to privately share their HIV status remains tantamount. Referrals and the extra degree of separation through partnerships with other nonprofits have allowed new residents of Peachtree-Pine to connect to our services without having to compromise the confidentiality of their HIV status.

Through this, Living Room has been able to connect to folks like:

  • Richard – A longtime HIV survivor who had a few mental and physical health needs that were not being met. After meeting with him, a case manager was able to submit a SNHAP application on his behalf. Richard is now seeing a therapist on a weekly basis.
  • Craig – After being tested through AHRC’s outreach, Craig learned that he was HIV+. He was immediately connected to Living Room for housing support services.
  • Sophie – A trans woman who has been living with HIV for a little over a year. After missing Peachtree-Pine’s September 1 newcomer deadline, she was not allowed to stay at the shelter but hung out around the block to stay in touch with some of the residents. Once Sophie heard about Living Room, a case manager helped her into our SNHAP program.

Atlanta: A City That Rises Up
This is what happens when Atlanta closes its largest shelter: housing support organizations and shelters rise up and stay the course to end homelessness in Atlanta. Embedded in the ethos of Living Room and perhaps most homeless service organizations in Atlanta are two truths: (1) Everyone is worthy of a safe and secure place to call home and (2) We cannot succeed and, more importantly, our clients cannot succeed if we attempt to end homelessness in Atlanta alone. Our outreach efforts during the closing of the Peachtree-Pine shelter have only confirmed this. We must press on without wavering.

Support Our Work

Felix, who’s been experiencing homelessness for under a year, sits on Peachtree Street, a block from the Peachtree-Pine shelter. He says he’s still trying to figure out next steps once Peachtree-Pine finally closes. This photo was taken with his permission. Face obfuscated by request.

 

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