After years of legal battles to keep it the open for men its operators repeatedly said had nowhere else to go, the Peachtree-Pine homeless shelter in downtown Atlanta will close its doors in August.
The facility, in one of downtown Atlanta’s most desired redevelopment tracts, is being sold to Central Atlanta Progress as part of a settlement between the business group and the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless. CAP is buying the 100,000-square-foot facility, which has been operating at the corner of Pine and Peachtree streets since 1997, for a reported $9.7 million.
The shelter’s clients, whose numbers can swell as high as 500, will be relocated to smaller homeless facilities throughout the city in the coming months.
“All parties are relieved that the dispute has been resolved and that the current residents of Peachtree-Pine will be transitioned to other facilities in a humane manner,” CAP, which advocates for business growth in the heart of the city, said in a release.
The settlement marks the end of a pitched battle that has been ongoing for years between homeless advocates, the business community and at least two Atlanta mayors. The business community has complained that the hundreds of men who often gather on some of downtains main thoroughfares around the facility are loitering and a nuisance. Mayor Kasim Reed has also focused on three separate tuberculosis outbreaks at the massive facility as a reason it needed to be shuttered.
Reed’s office declined to comment Thursday on the settlement.
Anita Beaty, however, the longtime executive director and founder of the facility who retired down earlier this year, fiercely defended the shelter against its critics for years. She remained resilient when Reed considering using eminent domain to close its doors and when the city threatened to cut its water off over nearly $600,000 in unpaid bills in 2014. The missed payments were later paid by an unnamed donor.
The legal action against the shelter, which began back in 2010, was supposed to go to a jury trial in October of 2016, but that was put off as the parties tried to settle the dispute ending in Wednesday’s agreement.
Atlanta City Council Kwanza Hall, who represents the district, said he supports the closure as long as the men are adequately housed and the city and homeless advocates have a sound plan to make sure the needs of the those living on the margins are met.
But he said after so many false starts that touted a deal was imminent, he will remain skeptical about an agreement until he sees the fine print, which had still not be released late Thursday.
“Until I see the actual contract and the signature, I won’t believe it,” he said.
As part of the agreement, the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless will continue to provide services from the shelter until August 28, CAP said.
“With the exception of the current residents awaiting transition to other facilities, however, the Peachtree-Pine property will no longer operate as a homeless shelter,” CAP said in its statement. “As part of the settlement, the Task Force for the Homeless will receive funds to continue its mission.”
Mayoral candidate Peter Aman also praised the resolution of the dispute, saying the homeless will get better attention to their needs in smaller facilities that can better handle such issues as substance abuse, mental health problems and other afflictions one-on-one.
“The best-in-class shelters are both smaller and can provide better services for those needing help,” said Aman, who also works with homeless organizations such as Partners for Home. “We also need to think about more permanent supportive housing for continue to need care after we get them off the street.”
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