Homeless residents of Atlanta will get a Thanksgiving meal courtesy of the city’s Public Defender’s Office.
The office is giving away 400 meals from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Magic City Parking Deck located on 241 Forsyth Street, city officials confirmed.
Director and Chief Public Defender Kenneth Days said the popular entertainment club offered the space to them.
Attendees will be treated to dinners from Kroger and a nearby church, Days said. The Fulton County HIV Mobile Clinic and representatives from the city’s pre-arrest diversion program will also be there.
The office will also give away small, donated items such as socks, rain coats, hygiene items and medical kits — “ things that are needed when you’re outside,” said Colleen Higgins, a client advocate with the Public Defender’s Office said.
“The whole idea is to invite them in and build rapport and trust,” Days said. Forty percent of the office’s work is outreach, he said. “It’s just as important, if not more, than handling a legal case.”
The office holds legal clinics in the community and works with the Atlanta police H.O.P.E. program on homeless outreach, but this is the first time they’ve held a Thanksgiving dinner in their community, which has a lot of homeless camps.
Days said the dinner is a more proactive way of engaging with their clients, who are often arrested for quality of life crimes, homeless or suffer from mental illness.
“The more we can engage proactively with them, the more impact we can have in reducing recidivism,” he said.
Atlanta’s homeless population has been a concern since the city closed Peachtree-Pine,the 28,500-square-foot shelter on 477 Peachtree Street. At one point, roughly 500 men slept at the shelter.
There are more than 3,000 homeless people in Atlanta on a given night, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.
In August, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced the city reached its goal of raising $50 million to provide 550 homes for the city’s homeless population.
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