MARTA, nonprofit partner to address homelessness

MARTA and a local nonprofit will aid homeless people who have taken refuge on the transit system.

MARTA announced Tuesday that it will partner with HOPE Atlanta to reach out to people they encounter at rail stations and bus shelters and on trains and buses. The nonprofit offers housing, social services, substance abuse counseling and employment services.

MARTA CEO Jeffrey Parker said many people use the transit system as shelter because they have nowhere else to go.

“We won’t tolerate criminal behavior, but being homeless is not a crime,” Parker said in announcing the partnership. “We are committed to finding solutions that safeguard customers and employees while treating everyone with dignity and respect.”

Under the partnership, HOPE Atlanta case managers and trained MARTA “field protective specialists” will reach out to homeless people each day. They will coordinate with other social service organizations.

“Those seeking refuge in MARTA’s stations, trains and buses will be met with trained street case managers who are relentlessly pursuing stable and supportive housing solutions with them,” said Jeff Smythe, the executive director of HOPE Atlanta. “This approach has been proven to be the most effective intervention in permanently housing unsheltered individuals.”

The yearlong pilot program is expected to begin this month.