By David Pendered
It took four years, but Atlanta has allocated significant funding – up to $26 million – for an initiative Mayor Kasim Reed announced in 2013 to reduce homelessness in the city. This money is the city’s payment into a fund that’s expected to reach a total of $115.6 million.
The other funding sources include $25 million that’s to be raised and provided by the United Way of Greater Atlanta, and $66 million from state and federal sources, according to the city’s plan.
Under the banner, “Rare, Brief and Non-recurring,” the city-led, public/private partnership has set these goals for addressing homelessness in Atlanta:
- 2017 – end veteran homelessness by refining coordination of existing programs;
- 2019 – end chronic homeless by adding permanent supportive housing units and creating a bridge to Medicaid service funding. The Medicaid aspect is uncertain as Congress debates health care legislation. “Chronically homeless” is defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as a person with a disabling condition who’s been homeless a requisite amount of time;
- 2020 – end youth homelessness by providing a spectrum of interventions including rapid rehousing, transitional housing and host homes;
- Ongoing – leverage, align and allocate resources by maximizing sustainability, e.g. mainstream funding.
The specific programs to achieve these goals call for:
- Placing 500 chronically homeless persons into permanent supportive housing.
- Securing housing for 300 homeless families who will be swiftly placed in permanent units;
- Preventing 100 families from becoming homeless;
- Creating 254 new housing interventions for homeless youth.
The budget calls for spending a up to a total of $16 million to buy and renovate 200 dwelling units each year, for the next three years. Another $7.6 million is to provide two to three emergency shelters for short-term stays. Another $400,000 is earmarked to create a communications system that will enable social service workers to connect homeless persons with the appropriate resources.
Reed and his administration have worked on the issue since at least 2012. That’s when the city was looking at innovative solutions to a number of urban woes with a $3.3 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies.
“We now have the opportunity to end chronic homelessness in our city, and ensure that all women, men and children – regardless of circumstance – have the chance to live stable, meaningful lives and participate fully in their communities,” Reed said in a statement released Monday. “I am thankful for the support of the Atlanta City Council and our partners at the United Way of Greater Atlanta, and I look forward to continued partnership as we execute this vital plan.”
The initiative has been led by Catheryn Ferrigno Marchman. Reed named her as the executive director of Partners for HOME in 2015. Marchman brought executive experience from St. Joseph’s Health System. She’s a licensed clinical social worker who served as behavioral health coordinator for Mercy Care, Inc. as she also served as St. Joseph’s legal, policy and compliance officer.
“I want to express my thanks to Mayor Reed for his vision and his ceaseless support of our work to move individuals out of homelessness,” Marchman said in the statement. “I also want to recognize the work of Federal, State and local agencies and housing authorities which provide funds, expertise and leadership, as well as our partner service providers across the Continuum-of-Care. Working together over the next three years, these resources will enable us to offer life-changing housing opportunities for hundreds of individuals and families.”
The Atlanta City Council voted unanimously Monday to approve the sale of $26 million in housing opportunity bonds. Money to service the first year’s debt payment was included in the budget for Fiscal Year 2018, which began July 1. The bonds are to be sold before year-end.
The bond proceeds will enable Atlanta to implement the ClearPath Strategic Plan, which the council adopted in June as an addition to the city’s 2016-2021 Comprehensive Development Plan. The plan describes the goals of the city’s homelessness initiative as well as its implementation plan.
Reed led the effort to create a city-based program to address homelessness. In doing so, Atlanta withdrew from the Tri-Jurisdicational Collaborative, which had been created a decade earlier and included Atlanta and Fulton and DeKalb counties.
With the council’s support, Reed in 2013 created the Atlanta Continuum of Care, which is administered by the non-profit Partners for HOME. It was determined this organizational structure provided the flexibility necessary to build a public/private partnership to address homelessness.