This story has been updated to correct a misstatement about ownership of the property.
The Georgia Court of Appeals has blocked the eviction of the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless from its controversial shelter in Atlanta.
It's the latest chapter in the ongoing battle between the task force's executive director, Anita Beaty, and downtown business group Central Atlanta Progress and its allies, who want to shut down the shelter. The shelter, located at the corner of Peachtree and Pine streets, houses hundreds of homeless men each night.
It's unclear what the next step will be in the case. Task force lawyer Steve Hall said the appellate court order could mean the eviction will be stayed for months until the full appellate court can hear the case. "This case is so unusual that you can't take anything for granted," Hall said.
"We just want a chance for the case to be heard on the merits," he said. "Nobody has heard any facts yet."
This month, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Craig Schwall ordered the task force out by Wednesday.
Schwall ordered Beaty to turn over the shelter to a team run by the United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta, which was to have six months find housing for the men before turning over the property to Premium Funding Solutions, which acquired the deed after the task force defaulted on its mortgage.
The task force has sued Central Atlanta Progress and others that it contends conspired with city of Atlanta officials to cut off its public grants and private fund-raising so that it couldn't pay its utility bills or its almost $900,000 mortgage.
The task force also sued Emanuel Fialkow, contending he conspired with the business association to gain control of the massive building.
Fialkow has denied through his lawyer that he had anything to do with the eviction and has emphasized that he does not own the building. The owner is Premium Funding Solutions, a limited liability corporation whose majority member is a company in which Fialkow's wife has an interest.
"Although plaintiffs alleged that Mr. Fialkow was somehow involved in a conspiracy to defund [the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless], no evidence has ever been provided, nor does there exist any evidence that Mr. Fialkow was part of such an alleged ‘conspiracy,'" his lawyer Wayne Melnick wrote this week in a letter to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The building has changed hands legally since the task force defaulted on loans from two nonprofits to develop the shelter. In late 2008, members attending a Central Atlanta Progress and Atlanta Downtown Improvement District committee meeting initiated plans to try and purchase those loans, court filings show.
Central Atlanta Progress then approached the nonprofits, saying it had lined up investors to buy the notes, but the nonprofits declined the deal, court filings say.
In 2010 the nonprofits sold the notes to Ichthus Community Trust. Fialkow, who said he was a business consultant to Ichthus, pledged to help the homeless inside the shelter in an op-ed in the AJC that year. Ichthus bought the shelter's notes with a loan from Premium Funding Solutions.
In May 2010, Ichthus foreclosed on the property and later transferred the title to Premium Funding Solutions when it was unable to get possession after the task force fought the eviction.
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