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Hurt Park: Fence with locking gates planned at park where Mrs. Georgia America feeds homeless

David Pendered
Hurt Park now serves as a lounge for visitors who take naps there during the day. The clientele is expected to evolve as the park is restored. File/Credit: David Pendered

By David Pendered

A fence with gates that can be locked is be the solution for managing homeless and other individuals who linger in Downtown Atlanta’s Hurt Park. Yet to be determined is the impact on routine homeless programs provided there – including one sponsored by Mrs. Georgia America 2017.

Hurt Park, historic

Hurt Park, once a picture postcard site that featured an illuminated water feature, is to be restored and managed by Georgia State University. Concerns are arising over how the park’s future operations will affect the homeless who spend time there. Special to SaportaReport

The concern about locking the homeless out of the park – and having them spread to other sections of Downtown Atlanta – is capsulized in one sentence in a staff report from Atlanta’s Urban Design Commission:

  • “Lastly, the impact of including physical barriers to entering the park would result in the homeless persons who currently occupy the park moving to neighboring spaces and spreading the issue throughout the city without directly addressing it.”

Atlanta owns Hurt Park and Georgia State University has been working since at least 2016 on an effort to refurbish the park, offer an array of programs and control the gates. Hurt Park opened in 1940 and later was heralded as a major accomplishment in the first administration of legendary Atlanta Mayor William B. Hartsfield. The park is located along the Atlanta streetcar route on GSU’s northern border, a few blocks west of Grady Memorial Hospital.

The fence planned around the perimeter of the park has already been approved by Atlanta’s Department of Parks and Recreation, according to the staff report by Atlanta’s Urban Design Commission. The board that oversees the UDC accepted the report and without comment at its Sept. 25 meeting, according to minutes of the meeting.

The Parks Department’s approval of the concept of a fence evidently supersedes concerns raised by the UDC staff. The staff report suggested that locking the park would make it less attractive to average passersby and compel the homeless to find other places to spend time. Details of the design of the fence are to be approved at a later date, according to the report.

Hurt Park now serves as a lounge for visitors who take naps there during the day. The clientele is expected to evolve as the park is restored. File/Credit: David Pendered

The UDC staff suggested that GSU offer social programs for the homeless. GSU responded that HOPE Atlanta will be handling those programs.

One issue that apparently remains to be resolved is how GSU will respond to programs for the homeless that already are underway – including an event titled Feed the Homeless that has been occurring for some time and is sponsored by With Love Global, founded by LaCrisha Saba, the 2017 titleholder for Mrs. Georgia America.

The next event is slated for Oct 20 and is to feature Halloween costumes and a “Superhero Theme,” according to its Facebook post. Saba accepts cash donations via PayPay and provides a menu for supporters to bring appropriate food items. The Oct 20 event calls for Halloween costumes and the menu theme is a taco bar, which calls for donations of beef and chicken, shredded cheese and other such items, according to the list posted on the event’s Facebook page.

Bibles, carrying bags and toiletries are always in demand, according to a request that states:

  • “HYGIENE….HYGIENE…. HYGIENE!!!!
  • “Garbage Bags / Totes / Carrying Bags
  • “Bibles
  • “Shoes
  • “Blankets”

At least one church group has offered an outreach program in the park, on Sept. 29. Congregants of Lord’s House Community Church, in Norcross, posted photos on a Facebook page and observed of the event at Hurt Park:

Hurt Park, feed the homeless

The next food program at Hurt Park sponsored by With Love Global, founded by Mrs. Georgia America 2017, is to a be a Halloween event with a superhero theme and a taco bar. Credit: facebook.com/WithLoveGlobal

  • “It was a great turn out! Everyone in the midst was blessed and thankful that God sent his people to share the love of Christ!”

The UDC staff report regarding the impact of the planned fence on the homeless included these observations. They speak to the ongoing issues regarding responsible outreach programs for individuals who, for whatever reason, don’t have an abode:

  • “Staff has concerns only with the installation of the perimeter fencing with locking gates. Staff finds that this approach to the chronic homeless issues experienced by the Park would result in a net negative for the urban environment surrounding the park. Firstly, Staff finds that the inclusion of a perimeter fence with locked gate around a public open space would result in an area that is uninviting to users and would lead to general disuse of the space….
  • Staff finds that operational changes to how the park functions such as increased security patrols and the programming of actvities and events throughout the day could aid in getting more eyes on the park which could become a detriment to nuisance activities….
  • Lastly, Staff finds that the impact of including physical barriers to entering the park would result in the homeless persons who currently occupy the park moving to neighboring spaces and spreading the issue throughout the city without directly addressing it….”

 

 

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David Pendered
David Pendered

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.

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2 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Tally Sweat October 7, 2019 4:45 pm

    As a Georgia State Alum back in the 80’s I worked with Alumni President Helen Aderhold and others to work out an agreement between the City Parks Department and Georgia State University to reach the agreement that apparently is in force today. We considered Hurt Park the University’s front lawn and it was a great green space for the students and those who worked in the office buildings surrounding it. And yes, the occasional homeless person drifted in and was welcomed as were visitors from around the world..

    Later, when my late husband Dan Sweat was receiving the Shining Light Award from WSB and Atlanta Gas Light, the logical site for its location is where it still stands in Hurt Park. Dan was an alumni of Georgia State and his Central Atlanta Progress office was located in the adjacent Hurt Building. As I remember, the intent of the award was to be an inspiration to others. My concern now is that a fence denies public access to a city park and makes GSU less inviting to those walking or driving by, not to mention that it denies access to the gas light post with its inspirational message of hope. Dan spent most of his adult life in seeking to better the lives of the homeless.and the downtrodden and perhaps at least a few people have read the inscription and gained hope…

    Is the homeless situation the only reason the Parks Department is recommending fencing? Are Woodruff Park and other parks across the city fenced with no feeding of the homeless allowed? Are there any restrictions on bringing in food or programming from other metro areas? Does the Mayor’s office still handle the issuance of permits? Is the University in support of the Park Plan to fence?
    I do hope that the Urban Design Commission will reconsider its staff recommendation and Atlanta Parks Department will do the same.. Thank you, David, for this coverage. I had not read or heard about this before.

    Mrs. Dan E. Sweat Jr. (Tally)

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    Ginny Connelly October 9, 2019 1:29 pm

    Why not have an outpost of the Gateway Center there for positive interactions with those in need of services?

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