Mayor Kasim Reed outlined plans Tuesday to use eminent domain to take control of the Peachtree-Pine homeless shelter property and build a police and fire station in its place.
Speaking at the Commerce Club, Reed said the shelter is a hub for tuberculosis infection, per information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and said he intends to ask for the business community’s help in building a new facility to serve the area’s homeless.
“What everyone in Atlanta knows is Peachtree-Pine has been a source of challenge for the city of Atlanta for 30 years. It destroys and damages that part of the city and the people that live in that part of the city every single day,” he said. “We have tolerated it in the past for a variety of issues. But I think having the CDC cite the facility as a national center for tuberculosis activity is different than traditional issues.”
Anita Beaty, head of the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, says the mayor’s accusations are off-base and pledged to fight any new attempts to seize the property.
“We are completely compliant with everything the county and CDC asks us to do. Everybody who comes in gets tested” for tuberculosis, she said.
Information from the CDC was not immediately available on Tuesday, but Reed’s office provided an April 2015 letter from state health officials expressing their “gravest concerns about an outbreak of drug-resistant tuberculosis connected with the Peachtree-Pine homeless shelter.”
A spokeswoman for Fulton County said the health department in June signed a memorandum of understanding with four local shelters, including Peachtree-Pine, requiring the shelters to implement tuberculosis prevention controls.
An attorney for the Task Force provided a recent letter from the county declaring Peachtree-Pine in compliance with those measures.
It’s the latest effort to shut down the facility that has been locked in a years-long legal battle with the city and downtown businesses. Some complain the shelter fosters illness and drags down nearby communities. Shelter leaders have countered that Peachtree-Pine provides a critical service to Atlanta’s most vulnerable residents and that city leaders want to drive them out in order to profit off the location.
They also accused officials under Mayor Shirley Franklin, as well as downtown booster Central Atlanta Progress, of conspiring to choke off charitable funding to the organization in an effort to shut it down. That issue is now before the Georgia Supreme Court. The Task Force, which is fighting eviction from the property, received a win Monday when the Georgia Court of Appeals ruled in its favor on a separate issue involving ownership of the site, an attorney for the group said.
Beaty, whose shelter provides housing for as many as 500 residents a day, said she thinks that could be fueling Reed’s remarks.
“I don’t know what motivates the mayor, but I would think maybe this ruling didn’t sit well with the other side and they’re desperate to get that building out of our hands for whatever reason,” she said.
Reed said he plans to pursue eminent domain “right away” and “if a judge stops me, so be it.”
Reed also rebuffed suggestions that the urgency could be tied to the potential sale of the nearby Civic Center property, noting his feelings about the shelter have long been public.
Last year, city officials threatened to shut off the shelter’s water after the task force racked up about $600,000 in unpaid bills. A private donor stepped in at the last minute to pay the bill.