Pledge to help homeless men at 477 Peachtree St.

Atlanta is a city with a big heart and strong arms for the needy.

It has been that way ever since the Great Depression when organizations were formed specifically to support the jobless and the homeless. This hallmark spirit lives on in 2010.

As the new owner of 477 Peachtree St., the longtime homeless shelter operated by the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, Ichthus Community Trust is working with its heart and head to help the men at the shelter.

We have no intentions to immediately alter the use of the property. We are not real estate developers, and never have been.

No rezoning is planned, and really nothing is planned other than getting our arms around the property and putting the right incremental steps in place to take care of the men who are there.

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At no time has Ichthus ever been solicited to close down the shelter and at no time have we ever stated that Ichthus is planning to close down the shelter.

We have no intent to evict the men who are residing at 477 Peachtree St. At this time, we do not feel that the property and the operations of the shelter are being managed appropriately.

Instead, our focus is on providing social assistance and monetary assistance to those men who are brave enough to seek it from our planned resource fairs, even at the discouragement of the current occupant, Anita Beaty, of the Metro Atlanta Task Force.

While Beaty has stated that she welcomes these services, she is not allowing anyone into the building for social service assessments, even though she is well aware of the serious need for this for the mentally disabled in the building.

The good news is that all of this can change and the die has been cast to do so.

Ichthus Community Trust recently held a resource fair at Crossroads Community Ministries for the Men who occupy 477 Peachtree St., to begin assessing the needs of these homeless men.

More than 70 men participated in the first resource fair and discussed their needs with social service agencies.

Teams of case managers interviewed and assessed clients in an effort to match the men with housing opportunities and appropriate support services.

In just one day, the following outcomes were achieved:

● 30 men were placed in housing, of whom four were veterans;

● 35 men received dental and vision care appointments;

● five men received SSI/SSDI benefit screenings;

● 14 men received employment screenings and appointments;

● 10 men received mental health screenings, six scheduled for follow-up appointments.

I pledge here to continue this care for the men who occupy 477 Peachtree St.

Ichthus has assembled a board of advisors to help manage this initial process.

The board consists of representatives from the United Way Regional Commission on Homelessness, Traveler’s Aid of Metropolitan Atlanta, the Salvation Army, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and others who have pledged their resources and proven skills.

Our goal is to find appropriate housing with case management for everyone.

I have received the steadfast support of three of Atlanta’s other homeless shelters: the Gateway Center, the Union Mission and the Salvation Army.

Beaty was the first person to bring to light and advocate for the homeless. She recognized the issue and impact long before Atlanta began to step up to the plate.

Her ability to gather media attention has been instrumental in fighting this illness that befalls upon not just the city of Atlanta, but the entire metro region and beyond.

Her advocacy for the homeless must be not only acknowledged, but also commended in the highest degree.

Few wish to acknowledge a homeless man or woman on the street and even fewer wish to get involved or attempt to make a difference.

Beaty has not only done both, she has been instrumental in recruiting others to join her in her crusade.

But there are serious challenges with the Task Force and real concerns remain. The shelter’s operation has been at odds with the downtown Atlanta community. It left bills unpaid, leading the city to shut off water to the building. And the Task Force defaulted on its loans, resulting in a foreclosure sale to Ichthus.

My hope is Beaty will leave the building in an orderly fashion so that a team of professionals can help these men and not keep them in a large building with only three toilets, three showers and no running water.

We at Ichthus will not tire in our commitment to help the men inside.

We have made a pledge and will keep our promises to do what is right for them and the neighborhood. We have the hearts and arms to do so. And we will.

Emanuel Fialkow is a business consultant for Ichthus Community Trust, the new owner of the building at 477 Peachtree St. in Atlanta.

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