Atlanta’s Largest Shelter Fights City for Water

Published on political pa, by Matthew Cardinale, June 24, 2009.

(APN) ATLANTA – The Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless won a temporary injunction and restraining order against the City of Atlanta to have their water turned back on so that they can negotiate a payment plan with the City.

The largest homeless shelter in the Southeast US, the Task Force houses up to 700 homeless men per night, and provides day services for both men and women, including women with children.

The City shut the water off yesterday for a second time. The first time was in December 2008. The Task Force also won an injunction to get its water turned back on then, and entered into a payment plan with the City.

The Task Force did make at least the first couple payments towards that agreement. However, Executive Director Anita Beaty told Atlanta Progressive News they have fallen behind on their current bills.

“For months, the Task Force has been engaging in good-faith bargaining with the city of Atlanta and the Department of Water, attempting to negotiate a mutually acceptable payment plan,” the Task Force said in a press release.

“The Task Force has tried to pay its past due bill but it was denied” …

… These cuts, initiated by the City, have resulted in millions of dollars of losses to the Task Force, leaving the Task Force with only a fraction of its previous budget.

Meanwhile, the Mayor has pushed her pet project, the fairly new Gateway Center, which as previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, has questionable practices as a model serving homeless people.

The Mayor’s homelessness czar, former Council Member Debi Starnes, has made repeated statements in publications including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper and Creative Loafing Atlanta magazine, openly criticizing the Task Force.

Starnes and others representing the City’s development interests have said that Task Force residents contribute to crime on Peachtree Street and that the Task Force is not doing enough to move residents into permanent housing.

At the same time, the Task Force has participated in many progressive movements opposing policies of Mayor Franklin, including her support of the mass demolition of public housing in Atlanta by the Atlanta Housing Authority; and the Mayor’s anti-panhandling ordinance.

Beaty says she believes the City is retaliating against the Task Force due to their opposition to the City’s pro-development policies.

“The city turned off water service to a major part of the building many months ago, while other organizations and city departments with outstanding water bills have not had their services terminated,” the Task Force said in a press release.

Also the City was found to have overbilled many Atlanta residents for water services in recent months, although it is not immediately clear whether the Task Force’s bill was impacted by the same accounting errors. (full text).

(Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor for the Atlanta Progressive News and is reachable by e-mail).

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