Atlanta airport news: Hartsfield-Jackson to strike contract to relocate homeless

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is seeking approval for a contract with HOPE Atlanta to relocate homeless people who filter into the terminal overnight.

HOPE Atlanta, also known as Travelers Aid Metro Atlanta, has an office in the domestic terminal and has had a presence at the airport for decades.

For years, the organization focused on helping stranded travelers, but about 25 years began focusing on helping the homeless.

“Our major focus now is to address the unsheltered people and help them get what they need to get shelter, to get back on their feet, said HOPE Atlanta spokeswoman Beth Haynes.

Hartsfield-Jackson is seeking Atlanta City Council approval for a one-year, $189,560 contract with HOPE Atlanta for homeless outreach services, with the option for a one-year renewal. The contract will formalize HOPE Atlanta’s work at the airport and expand its hours by adding a daytime shift, according to Hartsfield-Jackson interim general manager Balram Bheodari.

After most flights have concluded for the night a woman sleeps on the bench outside the south baggage claim at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, in Atlanta.

Credit: Kelly Yamanouchi

icon to expand image

Credit: Kelly Yamanouchi

The contract is through a “special procurement,” meaning it is not competitively bid like other city contracts.

The airport "has seen a marked increase in the presence, indecent activities and shelter needs of homeless individuals taking refuge at the airport, especially during cold weather events," wrote interim chief procurement officer Susan Garrett in a memo authorizing the special procurement. "The cold weather this past winter resulted in an influx of homeless activity."

Garrett added that people arriving at the airport via MARTA “become stranded at the airport after the last train departs the station,” and end up cut off from resources and transportation to shelters.

As more travelers noticed the increasing numbers of homeless in the terminal, and after incidents including one involving a homeless man arrested after allegedly exposing himself in the airport, Hartsfield-Jackson earlier this year began restricting overnight access to the airport.

HOPE Atlanta “provides a unique ability to ensure continuity of care, services and coordination between the City of Atlanta’s existing program and the establishment of a formal program at Hartsfield-Jackson,” since it already provides shelter beds and case management services through services with the City of Atlanta, according to Garrett.

The organization has eight employees working at the airport’s domestic terminal, and transports people to the city’s Gateway Center shelter.