The Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless has collected a series of recent legal victories it hopes will result in something the group has sought for more than a year: a day in court where it can fight a pending eviction.
A Fulton County judge had ordered the group to surrender its facility after it defaulted on its mortgage. But the Georgia Court of Appeals on Monday ruled the Fulton judge did not allow the Task Force to present evidence to fight the foreclosure.
“We are feeling confident that we are on a path toward a complete trial with evidence presented,” said Anita Beaty, executive director of the Task Force. “We believe we will win. It looks like we will have our day in court.”
Fulton County Superior Court judge Craig Schwall had originally ordered Beaty in February 2012 to turn over the shelter to a team run by the United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta, which would spend six months relocating the men who used the shelter. The facility would then be turned over to Premium Funding Solutions, a finance firm that acquired the deed after the task force defaulted on its mortgage.
Known more commonly as Peachtree and Pine, the homeless facility is located in the heart of Atlanta where downtown meets Midtown.
Beaty said that, depending on the weather, the facility usually served between 300-500 homeless people a daily. That does not include up to 150 more who were receive services or training there.
“What we’re doing keeps me going,” said Beaty, addressing the weight of the center’s service coupled with the legal battle. “This place is really operating with a degree of self-sufficiency. To offer the services which have been offered is stunning and exciting.”
But for all the good it does, a Peachtree and Pine stigma still looms, especially among those who blame the shelter for warehousing the homeless and attracting crime, disease and desperation to the downtown and Midtown areas.
Hundreds of homeless men generally congregate outside the shelter, spilling over on to Peachtree and surrounding streets, creating an undesirable scene on the urban landscape and contributing to an image problem in an image-conscious city.
In 2010 Premium Funding Solutions foreclosed on the Task Force, adding that it was “wrongfully occupying” the building.
Steven Kushner, an attorney representing Premium, would not comment on the lawsuit.
The Task Force has been able to stay in the building while the case proceeds, but it argues that the center has been financially crippled.
In another lawsuit, the Task Force argued the city of Atlanta and the downtown business community, including Central Atlanta Progress, colluded against it to block funding and cut off public grants and private fundraising, which prevented the shelter from being able to pay its utility bills and $900,000 mortgage.
Steve Hall, an attorney for the shelter, said its funding has essentially gone from $2 million annually to virtually nothing.
“From our perspective, we have been injured,” Hall said. “When your revenues go from $2 million to zero, you are not going to be able to pay your bills and mortgage.”
The Task Force has also battled the city over thousands of dollars of unpaid water bills.
Steve Riddell, an attorney representing Central Atlanta Progress, said the Task Force has failed to prove that any kind of plot exists and has yet to provide any clear documents showing a loss in funding.
“They have raised claims against us, claiming that we are part of a conspiracy,” Riddell said. “But until we get a chance to take their deposition, it is hard to respond to the allegations.”