By Maria Saporta
Foreclosure on the Peachtree-Pine homeless shelter has been averted, at least for now.
Two lenders had filed for foreclosure notices that was supposed to go forward on Dec. 1.
But on Monday, the Metropolitan Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless was able to reach a temporary agreement with the lenders to keep the shelter open for at least another three months.
William “B” Wardlaw, who has been the key benefactor of the shelter since its beginning, said today that the lawyers for the Task Force had reached an agreement with the lawyers of the two lenders.
The two lenders are the Denver-based Mercy Loan Fund, which is owed up to $300,000; and the Institute for Community Economics, an arm of the National Housing Trust of Washington D.C., which is owed about $600,000.
“The Wardlaw Fund would be willing to pay 5 percent of the money owed on the building plus three months of interest on the balance of the debt,” Wardlaw said. In all, the Gertrude and William C. Wardlaw Fund offered to pay $56,000 to reach this agreement with the lenders.
Over the weekend, Wardlaw said that he and his family foundations were not a position to pay off the $900,000 to stop the foreclosure. He already has contributed $4 million to buy the Peachtree-Pine building 12 years ago and to keep it open all these years.
“We’ll just start over again trying to find people who are willing to help save Peachtree-Pine,” Wardlaw said.
The Task Force has been at odds with City Hall, other homeless advocates as well as the business community over the operations of the shelter. Currently, the Task Force has filed a lawsuit against the city alleging a conspiracy of groups trying to close the shelter.
Wardlaw admitted that long term, the Task Force faces obstacles in keeping the shelter open beyond the three month extension. But he added that it was critically important that the shelter remain open during the coldest months of the year.
“That was our deepest concern of the moment — to avoid anything that would put people on the streets right now,” Wardlaw said.
In addition to paying back the lenders, Task Force has been struggling to pay its vendors and its utilities. A couple of times, the city has turned off the shelter’s water because of unpaid water bills, but the Task Force has managed to get the water turned back on each time. Another water bill is coming due so the Task Force will continue trying to find the money to pay its bills.
“That’s what we have been doing for 12 years — taking it month to month to try to pay the utilities,” Wardlaw said. “It’s the nature of poverty.”
Meanwhile, the Peachtree-Pine shelter remains on the market with a current asking price of about $5 million. Even then, it would be a “tough choice” to sell the building, Wardlaw said.
Bob Cramer, chairman of the Task Force, said that clearly the shelter is needed because it serves about 700 men every night.
“What we need to do is to try to keep that building available to the homeless and the most vulnerable,” Cramer said. “You couldn’t find another building that’s that large and has the right zoning.”