Georgia is one of the top choices when New York City officials decide to send their homeless population elsewhere.
The program is called Special One Time Assistance (SOTA), and it is administered by NYC’s Human Resources Administration. It provides one year’s full rent to eligible participants to move within the city or to other New York state cities, or to other states, or to Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.
Applicants, who include single adults and families, must be able to provide proof of income, and the rent must not be more than 50% of household income.
NYC, according to The New York Post, has sent homeless families to 373 cities as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s $89 million plan. A lot of those cities are in Georgia, according to a map of SOTA’s destinations.
So far, 5,074 homeless families, or 12,482 individuals, have been relocated, according to The New York Post.
Besides Atlanta, SOTA recipients have been sent to College Park, Smyrna, Stone Mountain, Lithonia, Douglasville, Marietta, Loganville and Kennesaw. Outside of metro Atlanta, Warner Robins, Macon, Albany and even tiny Willacoochee have been destinations.
The news came as a surprise to Willacoochee Mayor Samuel Newson, who told the Post, “I’m not familiar with none of that.”
New York City taxpayers also foot the bill for travel expenses through a program called Project Reconnect.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has her city’s own homeless problems to address. In August, she announced Atlanta had reached its goal of raising $50 million to provide 550 homes for the city’s homeless population.
About $25 million came from private donations that range from a few thousand dollars to $15 million. The United Way of Greater Atlanta partnered with the city to raise the money.
The other half is from the Homeless Opportunity Bond sale that began under former Mayor Kasim Reed. Bottoms was on the City Council when the plan was approved in 2017.
City officials said the final donation of $114,000 came recently from Ameris Bank and allowed the city to reach its goal.
Bottoms said there are 3,217 homeless people in Atlanta, half the number that was recorded a decade ago. One of the city’s most difficult challenges has been connecting people living on the streets to the services available to them, Bottoms said.
The city’s approach to addressing homelessness is based on the concept of rapid rehousing — a philosophy that recognizes most homeless people are forced to the streets after a financial crisis. The idea is to quickly provide a temporary home, which allows them to focus on rebuilding instead of where they will sleep.
Under the rapid rehousing model, the belief is the faster someone gets back in a home, the more likely they are to avoid becoming homeless again.
The city’s plan for raising $50 million was announced in 2017, about the same time that it closed the city’s largest homeless shelter — a 100,000-square-foot building at Peachtree and Pine streets that housed as many as 500 people a night but was also blamed for tuberculosis outbreaks.
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