By Sean Keenan
A new regional initiative launched Wednesday morning endeavors to help assuage the seemingly inevitable onslaught of evictions spurred by the economic side effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the start of the Atlanta Regional Housing Forum on Wednesday, Jack Hardin, co-chair of the Regional Commission on Homelessness, announced the advent of the Save Our Atlanta Residents (SOAR) project, which aims to keep tens of thousands of metro Atlantans threatened with displacement housed amid the public health crisis.
The initiative, still in its infancy with its details being fleshed out, is spearheaded by leaders from the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta, United Way of Greater Atlanta and the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, although Hardin told SaportaReport in a recent interview that it will likely swell to include more local organizations and individuals.
ARC executive director Doug Hooker said during the housing forum that SOAR will kick off with a fundraising push to support an equity fund for eviction prevention and rental assistance — things that housing leaders for years have said would help with Atlanta’s long-standing housing affordability and income inequality crises.
“We have the opportunity to take one of the country’s most inequitable cities, Atlanta, and reshape it into one that cares about its neighbors, one that rises to the occasion and faces inequality head-on,” Hooker said.
SOAR would also supplement the handful of local and federal programs designed to prevent mass displacement in the coronavirus era, a time when virtually inevitable evictions promise a spike in the homeless population nationwide, Hardin said.
“If we do nothing, I fear we will be facing Grapes of Wrath-type encampments,” he said. “Everyone is better off if people are able to stay in their homes during this crisis.”
The news of SOAR’s debut follows Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’s announcement that a new partnership with United Way of Greater Atlanta would allow pandemic-afflicted city residents to apply for thousands of dollars in rental assistance.
That announcement comes on the heels of the news that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, by order of the Trump Administration, would be halting residential evictions for certain people struggling to pay rent during the pandemic until at least December.
(Header image by Kelly Jordan)
What about mortgage assistance? I own my own home and am struggling to pay my mortgage. Is there a program to help? especially senior citizens. I am 74 and living on Social Security and $99.00 per wk from the state for unemployment
Thanks for the update