Peachtree-Pine homeless shelter escapes foreclosure

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.”

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.

20 replies
  1. Jake says:

    The fact that this guy can’t see that shelter is doing nothing for him, the homeless people or the city at large is insane. Nobody wants to live in that area, nobody wants to have a business in that area, and nothing beneficial happens in that homeless shelter besides prolonging a problem. That homeless shelter positions panhandlers at the front gates of our city. Homeless people urinate and defecate all around it. They really need to move it somewhere else or just shut it down period.Report

  2. downtown resident says:

    I live at Peachtree Towers and often I walk to the grocery store on North Ave. Because of the shelter the entire area from Ivan Allen Blvd to Linden to Peachtree Street to Courtland ave is off limits. Anytime I walk that direction I have to go two or three blocks out of my way to get to the store.
    The location of the shelter creates a huge problem for many blocks.Report

  3. Atlanta resident says:

    Nice comments people. When they shut down Peachtree-Pine and you have one of their former residents sleeping on your building’s stoop, don’t complain. There is simply no viable alternative for all 700 people who sleep there every night. The Gateway Center and all of the other shelters don’t have enough beds. Do you want to pay for them all to have a transitional housing unit? Do you want to pay for them all to have 3 meals a day, water to drink, showers and clean clothes? Or do you want to walk 3 blocks out of your way?Report

  4. Chris says:

    I live in an apartment above a retail space on Peachtree St. between Pine & Renaissance. I also often have to walk out the front of my building down peachtree to North and then over to the grocery store, instead of simply out my back door and crossing courtland and going down linden- just to avoid being hassled or mugged and even then the route I take isn’t much safer (i.e. someone was shot at Renaissance and P’tree on Sunday night).

    I understand there needs to be a place for them to go, but the fact of the matter is that this shelter needs to be in a different part of town.

    1. No one wants to run a business in a neighborhood where there are constantly homeless coming in, badgering customers, loitering, etc. I have lived where I am now for the last 7 months and guess how many businesses have been located in the store front I live above? Zero, not a single business or even interested party has tried to move into the vacant space. No customer wants to park in that part of town. I have to park my car right in the thick of it on courtland behind the shelter and there have been plenty of break ins back there.

    2. That space could be developed into something really good for Atlanta if the neighborhood was in better standing and could revitalize the “SoNo” district, raise property values, and maybe people would even want to move in if it weren’t overrrun by homeless. Seriously when I leave for work in the morning there droves of homeless people not in the shelter at all, but sleeping on sidewalks, in parking lots..everywhere.

    3. As far as I know, that shelter does not do drug screenings, meaning anyone can come and stay there. And people wonder what brings crime into that area? The first night at my apartment I heard gunshots and came to find out that an 18 yr old(non-homeless) and been killed because he was (you guessed it) trying to rob a rival crack dealer. Most of the violence doesn’t come from the homeless themselves but the people they attract to the neighborhood by with their addictions. And with all that going on, hell, might as well rob some people too if the police aren’t going to do anything about it.

    CLOSE THE SHELTER- open it somewhere away from the heart of the city where real estate and utilities are cheaper. Hopefully this will cause some kind of mass exodus, which in town will take the crime and drugs with itReport

  5. Jordan says:

    I would like to add to some of what Chris said:

    #1 and #2 sort of go together. That area of Atlanta is is vital in connecting Midtown to Downtown/Centennial Park/Allen Plaza, yet because people are stubborn, vindicative, and out of touch with reality the shelter continues to hamper development and quality of life.

    It would make a lot more sense for the shelter to take advantage of lower propety taxes and as Chris said, lower utilities. The historic building is falling apart and I’m sure bleeds unnecessary utility cost from a lack of upkeep and out-dated infrastructure.

    The only reason the shelter is still there is to “stick it to the powers-that-be”, because the shelter could easily run in other locations at a lower costs.

    #3 I’d further like to add, one of the reasons the shelter is under such crippling debt is because the lost of state and federal funding because of how poorly its run among other factors.

    While homeless shelters serve a purpose and society needs them to help those that have fallen on hard times, the Pine Street shelter does not fall into this category.Report

  6. Rebekah says:

    I am appalled at the callous comments on this article! #8 – “That space could be developed into something really good for Atlanta.” The definition of good: Morally excellent; virtuous 2. kind, benificient or friendly 3. honorable or worthy

    What is more honorable or morally excellent than helping to provide for people who have nothing and can give nothing in return?! Take your smug selves down there and donate some time to these people.Report

  7. rudy says:

    Lets face it.The city of Atlanta and this country are all in need of homeless shelters.Peachtree and Pine is needed for those that have no where else to go.The city thats to busy to hate,is the city that hates peachtree and pine.We all (except those that have) are just a paycheck away from being homeless.If your circumstances changed overnight and you had no place to go.You had no money or food.Would you go to Peachtree and Pine? Sure you would,if thats the best that you could do.The real problem is that,white atlantans dont wont to see black men in there downtown neighborhood.Wake up Atlanta.You are the city that hates.Peachtree and Pine have served black as well as white and other minorities.This is the city where Dr.King was raised lived and preached equality for all.If he were alive today.He would be disgusted with the city of atlanta and those that oppose peachtree and pine.Hopefully theres a solution to solve the homeless problem in the city.You never know where your help will come from.I didnt.But I was a resident at peachtree and pine in its early days.If it was not for peachtree and pine,I dont know what would have happend to me.Report

  8. Beth says:

    I have read many of the comments above and could not agree more. As a pet owner, tax payer and a local resident, I have many complaints with this shelter. I have actually spoken to several of the men that are homeless. Several have told me that the shelter does not provide them with any help. Probably my biggest complaint is with the hazardous trash that is left on the sidewalk. I can’t even walk my dog down the street because they leave chicken bones that she can easily get caught in her throat. Believe me, chicken bones are the best things they leave behind. I have seen syringes, vomit, feces, etc. Yeah, it is a real beautiful day in the neighborhood. I will say that most of the people that are advocates for the homeless shelter do not live around it. My guess is a lot of these people would not want it in their backyard. Maybe that is why there is the effort to try and keep it where it currently is. It is easy to act morally superior, but then be able to go back to your nice little suburb with a clean backyard and no panhandling. Next time you are able to walk in your neighborhood without being harassed or not deal with your dog choking on litter, give thanks and think about what life would be like if you were next door to Peachtree and Pine Homeless Shelter.Report

  9. DJ Stretch says:

    Oh and by they way… Beth… How can you sit there and complain about the homeless shelter because its hazardous to your dog???? Were you born yesterday??? These are people!!! And I live on pine street!!! I see it everday!!! I volunteer there as well… which maybe you should do.. Try to make a difference instead of just bitching and complaining… Report

  10. DJ Stretch says:

    and one more thing… im white… and after reading this im disgusted to say so… i hate people like you who still think like children… i swear… how can you sit there and say its more important to have neat cute little shops and stores and starbucks than it is to help the homeless???


  11. Glad to be gone says:

    Hum, very interesting comments from the people of ATL. ATL prides itself as the jewel of the south. Well, I am goning to tell you about your pride. The city actually has nothing to be proud of..just read your comments. You are a very selfish community, those who have it and those of you who dont. I lived in your city for 2 years, which were the worst years of ny life. The hatre I saw I could not believe still existed in America and I’m talking white verus black, the black again black hate. And in the place where out greatest champion came from.
    Shame on you all…you show no respect..just outright greed. I hope someday you dont find yourself in a situation as the homeless you have spoken of. If so, may they show you the kindness you have failed to show them. And if they dont..ask yourself why..ATL is a hateful city!Report

  12. Glad to be gone says:

    And to those who actually run the do more to deter the homeless then you do to help them. Granted you do provide the help many need but you can do better. I wont go into detail you know the problems and have failed to address them. Some measures you do need cause for every good people using your service, 2 more are trying to beat the system. Realize those who need, want and are willing to be helped and HELP them.

    Hw do I know this, cause I was there and I seen with my own eyes, the mistreatment but I also seen the good. I was given a break by a staff members who noticed I was different then the regular intakes and help me. I no longer live in ATL, (too much hatred) but if it were not for those staff members helping me, who knows, maybe I would not be alive to be writing this. Some of us are no meant for and can not survive on the streets. I think they knew that and responded. How many are caught in the cycle and cant get out. You need to do a much better job to id these people, they just need that little break.

    You, the staff, will read this and AGREE but tomorrow when you go to work, it will be business as usual. Prove me wrong, prove me right. The lord knows if you’re asking yourself, “who will know”. he knows and on judgement day, you have to address it. Do the right thing and avoid having to explain to the lord why you made the choice you did.

    Your decision!Report


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