Atlanta’s new answer to reducing homelessness: Create a non-profit organization under mayor’s control

By David Pendered

Atlanta’s latest approach to reduce homelessness in the city calls for the creation of a non-profit organization under the control of the mayor.

Atlanta's efforts to reduce homelessness are outlined on its website, unshelterednomore.com

Atlanta’s efforts to reduce homelessness are outlined on its website, unshelterednomore.com

The proposal arises from the city’s work conducted with a portion of the $3.3 million innovation grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies. The new non-profit is to raise money from public and private sources, hire an executive director, invite relevant partners to join the program, and comply with all federal laws.

The legislation is to be discussed Tuesday at Atlanta City Hall. Topics likely to be addressed include how the non-profit will relate to existing regional programs for the homeless including the Gateway Center, Metro Atlanta Tri-Jurisdictional Collaborative on Homelessness, United Way Regional Commission on Homelessness – not to mention the homeless shelter at the corner of Peachtree and Pine streets whose fate remains in litigation.

The proposal establishes that mayor will appoint the chair of a planned transitional board, along with each of the 11 members of the transitional board. The legislation does not mention a confirmation process for the mayor’s appointees, or any role of the Atlanta City Council. Atlanta and Fulton County governments are to have representatives; DeKalb County, which currently is in the Tri-J collaboration, has no representative.

The largest group of veterans identified in the city's registry of the homeless did not say when they served in the military. Credit: Unshelterednomore.com

The largest group of veterans identified in the city’s registry of the homeless did not say when they served in the military. Credit: Unshelterednomore.com

The transitional board is to convene for the first time no later than June 30 and establish a permanent organization by June 1, 2014.

Once a permanent board is established, the mayor will appoint the chair and at least half the members of the permanent board. The permanent board is to have at least 11 members who represent a range of interests, according to the legislation. The legislation does not mention any role of the Atlanta City Council in confirming the mayor’s appointees or overseeing the program to reduce homelessness in Atlanta. There is no mention of a process for selecting the members not appointed by the mayor .

The organization is to set performance goals for recipients of funding and, presumably, select the recipients who will be funded to provide services to reduce the number of homeless in Atlanta, according to the legislation. In addition, the organization must be approved by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The mayor’s innovation delivery team is authorized to help implement the legislation, in addition to the city offices of human services and grants management.

The legislation says the effort to reduce homelessness requires a comprehensive effort. Potential partners include faith-based groups, business, government, “non-profit homeless assistance providers,” hospitals, universities, and others.

The proposal calls for the creation of an oversight organization named Atlanta Homeless Continuum of Care. It will be the sole entity to serve in that federally designated role within the city of Atlanta – including the portion in DeKalb County.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has made the dramatic reduction of homelessness a priority of his administration.

Atlanta's registry of the homeless, conducted earlier this year, shows that almost two-thirds of the city's homeless are over age 40. Credit: Unshelterednomore.com

Atlanta’s registry of the homeless, conducted earlier this year, shows that almost two-thirds of the city’s homeless are over age 40. Credit: Unshelterednomore.com

This proposed organization would be fully established just after the start of Reed’s presumed second term in office. Reed faces no opponents in the fall’s election who have raised significant funding, according to campaign disclosure reports.

The public face of the mayor’s initiative is an effort named Unsheltered No More. It is the organization that in January conducted a by-name registry of the homeless in Atlanta.

The resolution says Atlanta’s homeless population numbers 5,987. The registry provides a statistical breakdown that shows:

  • 77 percent of the homeless are male;
  • 87 percent are black;
  • 15 percent are veterans;
  • 7 percent are families with children;
  • 7 percent are 62 years or older;
  • 4 percent are 25 years or younger.

According to the website of Unsheltered No More:

  • “The short-term goal is to move 800 people into stable housing by December 2013. Over the long term, Unsheltered No More seeks to catalyze a new level of coordination among all the public, private, nonprofit, and faith-based organization that serve the homeless – and set Atlanta on a path to meeting the federal government’s goal of ending chronic and veteran homelessness by 2015.”

The Atlanta City Council’s Community Development Committee is slated to consider the new approach, which is outlined in a Resolution 13-R-3111, in a meeting that’s to begin at 12:30 p.m. If the committee approves the proposal, it could move forward for adoption by the city council at its June 3 meeting.

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

4 replies
  1. Dejavu says:

    That’s a great idea; amazing nobody thought of it before! Oh wait …
    History:
    Founded in 1981 and incorporated in 1986, the Task Force for the
    Homeless is a leading nonprofit agency serving homeless people. It was
    initiated in 1981 by then-Mayor Andrew Young upon the deaths of 17
    homeless men on the streets that winter. The mayor, urged by members of
    the community of faith, called together leaders in the community to
    organize a response, the result of which was the Task Force for the
    Homeless.Report

    Reply
  2. scfranklin says:

    Thanks for the history lesson, javu. A decade ago Atlanta Regional Commission on Homelessness grew out of our community’s desire to find sustainable, efficient solutions to the challenges faced by thousands of mostly homeless men and a growing number of women and children. The United Way stepped up with staff, grant making expertise and funding to assist a few thousand homeless men, women and children and dozens of service providers. The city donated property for the Gateway Center which has served thousands every year. And working collaboratively across sectors and largely unknown to many the RCOH raised $50 million for this work in 6 or 7 years and metro counties – Fulton, Dekalb, Gwinnet, Cobb, Clayton, Rockdale and Douglass – leveraged this energy to launch and fund significant initiatives in their jurisdictions. When this started there were regular reports of transport of homeless people from the region to the Atlanta. The RCOH got buy in from regional leaders who stepped up. We are close to the end of the 10 year plan to eliminate chronic homelessness and still the RCOH is hard at work with street to home, hospital to home, jail to home among other programs and fundraising to make good on the promise to make a way out of no way for those most in need.Report

    Reply

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