Column: Peachtree homeless shelter facing foreclosure

By Maria Saporta
Friday, November 27, 2009

Housing advocates, and business and philanthropic leaders are keeping close tabs on the scheduled Dec. 1 foreclosure of the Peachtree-Pine shelter operated by the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless.

Two lenders have filed foreclosure notices on the Peachtree-Pine building — the Denver-based Mercy Loan Fund, which is owed up to $300,000; and the Institute for Community Economics, part of the National Housing Trust of Washington, D.C., which is owed about $600,000.

It is possible the Task Force could come up with a last-minute donor that could pay off those loans and let it keep the building, located on Peachtree Street at the junction of Midtown and downtown. But, so far, the Task Force has been unable to find such a donor during this financial crisis.

The Task Force has been trying to sell the building for much of the past year. It currently is asking about $5 million for the property, which would permit it to pay back its loans and bills.

But the Task Force may have run out of time as well as cash.

“This is a window of opportunity,” said Bruce Gunter, president of Progressive Redevelopment Inc. “For people who have never liked this facility, now is the time for somebody to come up and be willing to buy it on Dec. 1.”

Gunter, a developer of supportive and affordable housing for the nearly homeless, said he would love to see the building turned into a mixed-income development with a significant portion of it being used to house low-income residents, perhaps aimed at women and children.

Gunter said his organization does not have the current funds available to create such a development, but that he’s hoping other organizations in town are prepared to step in.

“I don’t think the Task Force could stop the foreclosure without paying off the loans,” Gunter said. “And their water bill is going to come due in January.”

From the earliest days that the Peachtree-Pine building was turned into a shelter, business leaders have sought to work on a way to minimize the impact of having hundreds of homeless people on Peachtree.

There has been an ongoing conflict between the Task Force and much of the rest of the community, including business, civic and philanthropic leaders. The Task Force has argued that it is trying to serve a population in need that the business community would rather ignore.

But the business community, joined by other nonprofit leaders, have counter-argued that the needs of the homeless can be better served through a more supportive facility, such as downtown’s Gateway Center.

Gunter hopes that the community will address the needs of homeless people currently being served at the shelter. But he also sees Dec. 1 as a day when the community can resolve its conflict with the Peachtree-Pine shelter once and for all.

“This is an opportunity,” Gunter said. “If we blow this chance, shame on us.”

Heat of the campaign

Atlanta’s 2009 United Way campaign normally would be winding down at this time of year.

But given the difficult economy, United Way is working with its partner companies to give them as much time as they need to meet their individual campaign goals.

The overall campaign goal is $80.5 million, the same amount that United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta Inc. was able to raise last year. But that total included $3.7 million raised in a one-time Critical Needs campaign.

“We are right in the heat of the campaign,” said John Somerhalder, chairman of the 2009 United Way campaign and CEO of AGL Resources Inc.

“Early indications show slightly positive results, but it’s a tough year and it’s an aggressive goal. There’s still a gap. So we still have a tremendous amount of work to do.”

Milton Little, president of Atlanta’s United Way, said the organization should have a good idea in the next couple of weeks about how much of a gap still exists.

“As challenging as this environment has been, with the kind of efforts we have seen at places like Publix, Home Depot, AT&T, Kroger and others, you have got to feel great,” Little said.

National honors for Corrells

First Atlanta, now the world.

Pete and Ada Lee Correll were honored Nov. 10 as the Philanthropists of the Year by the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ (AFP) Greater Atlanta chapter.

Next April, the Corrells will be honored as the Outstanding Philanthropists of the Year by the international organization, which has more than 30,000 members in more than 200 chapters around the world.

“We are just thrilled the Corrells are being recognized for all of the things they have done and their long history of giving,” said Jerry Henry, a partner with Alexander Haas, who is this year’s president of the Greater Atlanta chapter. “It’s such an honor for our chapter to have nominated the Corrells.”

The Corrells were nominated for their giving at Emory University and for their civic activities, including their efforts to make Grady Memorial Hospital financially solvent.

They will receive their award at AFP’s international convention in Baltimore on April 13. It also will be the 50th anniversary for AFP, which will make the event even more significant, Henry said.

This is not the first time an Atlantan has been named Outstanding Philanthropist of the Year by the international organization. In 2007, The Home Depot Inc. co-founder Bernie Marcus received the international award. He was named Atlanta’s Philanthropist of the Year in 1998.

Leadership awards

Nominations are being accepted for the Turknett Leadership Character Award through Dec. 4. Winners and the nominees will be recognized at a luncheon Feb. 23 at the Georgia Aquarium.

They are hosted by the Turknett Leadership Group and Kennesaw State University’s Siegel Institute for Leadership, Ethics & Character.

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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