Atlanta man, cat no longer homeless after $35K raised to rent apartment

Tracey Hardin is pictured with his cat Patches. Hardin lived on the streets of Atlanta through consecutive winter seasons, in a pandemic and with asthma.  Photo Credit: David Murray Jr.
Tracey Hardin is pictured with his cat Patches. Hardin lived on the streets of Atlanta through consecutive winter seasons, in a pandemic and with asthma. Photo Credit: David Murray Jr.

Credit: DAVID MURRAY JR

Credit: DAVID MURRAY JR

Tracey Hardin slept in his own bed Monday night for the first time since 2019. He hasn’t been traveling, he’s been homeless, surviving two winters and a pandemic while living on the streets of Atlanta.

His friend Patches, a calico cat, has stuck with him through the entire journey.

“It’s been a struggle,” said Hardin of homelessness. “Not just for me, but for Patches.”

A new home wasn’t something Hardin, who suffers from asthma, could’ve foreseen a month ago.

Lynne Dale, a woman who befriended him last summer, started a GoFundMe campaign Feb. 20 and raised more than $35,000 in a matter of days. More than 670 donors contributed to cover Hardin’s two-year apartment lease and help pay for utilities.

“This is an unbelievable miracle,” Dale said. “These are strangers (donating). People were ringing my phone, sharing the GoFundMe page.”

Actress Elaine Hendrix, who plays Alexis Carrington on the Netflix series “Dynasty,” donated her own gently used furniture and styled it around the new apartment. Hardin’s landlord, Weslee Knapp, waived the security and pet deposits and discounted the rent by $50.

Knapp is chair of an organization that helps the homeless, Community Friendship Inc. Dale, who is a real estate agent, said she contacted Knapp after narrowing a list of apartments for rent, and Knapp’s was the lowest listing at $1,050 in the Virginia-Highland neighborhood.

“I contacted him having no idea that (alleviating homelessness) was his passion,” she said.

Tracey Hardin and his calico cat Patches take in their new apartment. Lynne Dale started a Go Fund Me campaign for formerly homeless Hardin, which raised $35,000.
Tracey Hardin and his calico cat Patches take in their new apartment. Lynne Dale started a Go Fund Me campaign for formerly homeless Hardin, which raised $35,000.

Credit: DAVID MURRAY JR

Credit: DAVID MURRAY JR

Hardin moved into his studio apartment Monday. By the time he opened the door, supporters had fully furnished the apartment with a bed, sofa, dishes, cookware, kitchen utensils, bathroom items, bedding, food, cat food, clothing and more.

“Peaceful,” Hardin said of the first night in his new apartment during a Tuesday interview there. “I was happy. Grateful.”

Dale and her husband Charles Williams met Hardin after he set up a tent in early September in Freedom Park just outside of their fenced property. When cold weather arrived, Dale grew concerned for Hardin’s well-being, she said.

“I couldn’t sleep at night,” Dale said. “I could see his tent outside my window. Seeing him crawling into his tent drove me crazy.”

To help, Dale and Williams ran a 180-foot extension cord from their home to Hardin’s tent for an electric blanket they gave him, and also to plug in a nebulizer needed for his asthma condition.

Tracey Hardin lived on the streets of Atlanta through consecutive winter seasons, in a pandemic and with asthma.  Photo Credit: David Murray Jr.
Tracey Hardin lived on the streets of Atlanta through consecutive winter seasons, in a pandemic and with asthma. Photo Credit: David Murray Jr.

Before experiencing homelessness, Hardin, 59, worked in downtown Atlanta as a cook at the Marriott Marquis and then the Hilton Atlanta hotel, but worsening asthma caused him to go on disability, he said.

That resulted in him falling behind on rent in 2019 and getting evicted from his old apartment, he said. By October, he was homeless like an estimated 3,200 people per night in Atlanta.

Hardin said during especially difficult days he never considered abandoning Patches to move into a shelter. He’s had the 5-year-old feline since she was a kitten. She would at times wander away from the tent and return sometime later, Hardin said. During those times, Dale said, Hardin could often be heard calling out, “Patches! Patches!”

“She doesn’t know anybody but me,” Hardin said of his calico. “She will always be with me and I love her.”

Hardin grew up in Atlanta and attended the former Walter F. George High School, he said. He was married for 38 years and his marriage ended before he started living on the streets. A twin brother died in the 1990s and a younger brother in Atlanta is homeless, he said.

He describes Dale, 60, as a forever friend who looks after him like a big sister.

Dale became a successful metro Atlanta real estate agent after a career working as a producer of network television investigative magazine shows “Dateline NBC” and ABC’s “PrimeTime.” She decided to start the GoFundMe campaign after an independent contractor for the city of Atlanta spotted Hardin’s tent and gave him one hour to gather his belongings and leave.

Dale rushed to have a neighbor reach out to their local police contacts. Police knew Hardin to be someone looked after by individuals in the community. And after subsequent calls to city officials by police, he was allowed to stay, Dale said.

Hardin said Dale was firm in insisting he be allowed to remain where he was. “How could I not love somebody like that,” he said.

Dale said helping Hardin out of homelessness was a “moral imperative.”

“You can’t just stand by and see someone suffer like that,” she said.

Dale, who lives nearby, says she will continue to look out for Hardin.

Dale, her husband and Hardin have something in common: their fathers were ministers.

“Us preachers’ kids have to stick together,” Dale told Hardin.

Tracey Hardin is pictured with Lynne Dale after seeing his newly furnished apartment. Actress Elaine Hendrix (right) donated her furniture and styled it around Hardin's new home. Photo Credit: David Murray Jr.
Tracey Hardin is pictured with Lynne Dale after seeing his newly furnished apartment. Actress Elaine Hendrix (right) donated her furniture and styled it around Hardin's new home. Photo Credit: David Murray Jr.

Credit: DAVID MURRAY JR

Credit: DAVID MURRAY JR

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