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B Wardlaw defends Homeless Task Force; fears forclosure

By Maria Saporta

The Metropolitan Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless has been at odds with the downtown business community and others — ever since it purchased the Peachtree-Pine building 12 years ago and turned into the city’s largest shelter.

Now William “B” Wardlaw, the Task Force’s top benefactor and supporter, acknowledges that the shelter’s days are numbered.

Two of the Task Force’s lenders — the Denver-based Mercy Loan Fund and the Institute for Community Economics — have filed foreclosure notices seeking payment of a total $900,000.

Wardlaw said he and Task Force officials have tried to talk to the lenders asking them to hold off on the foreclosure, especially on the eve of the colder, winter months.

“The most recent offer to me was if I paid off the entire $900,000,” Wardlaw said. “I’m not in a position to do so. The Gertrude and William C. Wardlaw Fund is not in a position to do so.”

Wardlaw said he and his family interests already have contributed $4 million to buy the Peachtree-Pine building and help fund the Task Force’s operations.

The last hope to save the building and the shelter will be a conference call scheduled for Monday, Nov. 30. But Wardlaw was not optimistic that a solution would be found because he said the lenders have been pressured to foreclose on the building.

“There were people who never wanted to have the Peachtree Pine shelter or the Task Force,” Wardlaw said. “It was the fault of the city for not working with the Task Force, and to let’s have a humane policy towards the homeless.”

If the foreclosure goes through on Dec. 1, Wardlaw said he does not know what will happen to the shelter.

“People in the building have no where to go,” Wardlaw said. “To close this building at this time would really be an appalling act.”

Asked why other homeless and affordable housing advocates are not supporting the Task Force, Wardlaw said: “There’s nobody who has had the courage to stand up to the business community.”

Meanwhile, the Task Force has filed a suit in federal court against the city of Atlanta and Central Atlanta Progress for orchestrating a conspiracy to close the shelter.

Wardlaw believes the Task Force has a solid case against the city and CAP, but that “the lawsuit won’t move that fast” to prevent the building from being sold or the shelter from being closed.

“The tragedy will have already occurred,” Wardlaw said.

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.


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