November 2, 2010: Creative Loafing Atlanta; Story and Photos by Sarah Woods
Men and women gathered in front of the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless and began marching toward Atlanta City Hall on Monday, November 1, 2010. Some carried coffins, others held signs aloft, but all marched for the cause of ending homelessness in Atlanta. The day was considered to be Homeless Memorial Day, remembering those who have died on the streets. Following the march, there was a litany for the dead on the steps of City Hall and dinner was later served to hundreds of Atlanta's homeless at the Cathedral of St. Philip. The day ended in a Requiem Mass at the Cathedral.
click photo to enlarge
Marching from Task Force
City Hall with Signs, Chants & Coffin
|Requiem Mass at Cathedral of St. Philip|
October 2010: The 21st Century Battle of Atlanta: targeting “business as usual” once again
An essential article to understand the context of homelessness in Atlanta and the struggles of the Task Force for the Homeless
Poor naked wretches, wheresoe’er you are,
That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,
How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,
Your looped and windowed raggedness defend you
From seasons such as these? O, I have ta’en
Too little care of this. Take physic, pomp.
Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel…
(King Lear, Act 3, Scene 4)
The first shots in the modern Battle of Atlanta were fired by those “city powers” who, in preparation for the 1996 Olympics, began sanitizing the Peachtree Corridor of “undesirables,” and then by the Metropolitan Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless ("Task Force") which, in response to Atlanta’s criminality, summoned the courage and the energy to respond by helping five of the thousands of unconstitutionally arrested people sue the city. Two days before the opening ceremony for its Olympics, Atlanta’s great opportunity to shine most brightly on the world stage, a judge upheld an order that restrained police from making further illegal arrests. Reporters looking for human-interest stories trumpeted the news around the globe, and Atlanta was justifiably humiliated.
Of course the local power structure then marked the Task Force for extinction, and shortly after the Olympics my family bought the 96,000 square-foot building at Peachtree and Pine for the Task Force for the Homeless to use as a resource center. The power structure’s predictable move was to impede Task Force fund-raising activities and to obstruct our efforts to form partnerships with other organizations. For instance:
• The executive directors of two large Atlanta non-profits — the Union Mission and the Jewish Family and Career Services — agreed to partner with the Task Force to run programs in the building. Under serious threats of loss of major funding and of their jobs if they dared do so, both eventually backed out.
• As we opposed the systematic destruction of much of Atlanta’s affordable housing and struggled to help displaced people recover from that outrage, we watched drug dealers prey on exhausted men coming back to our building from their hard day’s work. Someone had decided to leave dealers free to swim like sharks around Peachtree and Pine, apparently hoping that frightened neighbors would give politicians the best possible excuse to implement their long-sought final solution: removing homeless men from the Peachtree Corridor. Meanwhile workers from shelters and hospitals, as well as Atlanta police, continued to deliver their “leftovers” to us.
• Our community — residents and staff — has always been 90 to 95 percent African American and predominantly male, and we increasingly encountered racism and sexism in raw and ugly forms. Offers began to come from sources open or hidden: “We will support your work and your financial problems will be over if you’ll get off of Peachtree.” When that didn’t work, the offers turned to: “Okay, if you’ll agree to serve only women and children, maybe we’ll let you stay.” In other words, “Get those dirty black men out of our clean part of town!”
• In 2007, the Atlanta business community’s politicians at City Hall finally succeeded in stopping $300,000 of annual HUD funding from reaching the Task Force, eliminating one-quarter of our already terribly inadequate budget even as thousands of Atlantans were losing jobs, homes, and healthcare in the wake of the 2008 economic collapse brought about by the same kinds of people who were seeking our collapse.
• During the 1980s in Washington, D.C., forces had tried to bring down the Community for Creative Non-Violence by undermining the credibility of its charismatic leader, Mitch Snyder. The same tack was tried in Atlanta. Though Task Force Executive Director, Anita Beaty, was vilified, obsessively, by Atlanta’s corporate media, her spirit continued to illuminate our work. She facilitated the development of a resident-operated computer repair shop and training program. She inspired the creation of the eye-catching art studio and gallery that fronted directly on Peachtree Street. Whether it involved fending off politicians or arranging to have an 18-wheeler full of toilet paper delivered to the door, Anita got it done, always with such love and respect for the often-desperate people in this community that had truly become Anita and Jim Beaty’s extended family.
Against Atlanta’s viciousness, against all odds, the community has survived for over twelve years. On Atlanta’s coldest nights, up to a thousand people have slept secure behind the thick walls of the 1920s automobile dealership now turned sanctuary. And every night, in spite of pressure not to do so, one Atlanta church or another has faithfully fed five hundred or more people, the women of Cascade United Methodist, an African American congregation in Southwest Atlanta, having come once a week during all of these years!, while Task Force workers have helped a constant flow of people find jobs and housing.
How many lives have been touched? How many saved? Numbers could never begin to tell the whole story, but thus far three to four million “units of service” have been delivered.
On November 2, 2009, at our annual Requiem for homeless Atlantans who had died in the preceding year, Jim Beaty read the names of fifty-four men, women, and children. Fifty-four times the cathedral bells rang out, recognizing people who had perished in the midst of Atlanta’s wealth. A week later, having no money to keep water, gas, and electricity flowing, much less to repay accumulated debts, the Task Force began to spread the word that we were in grave danger of being forced to shut down the building. People who had tried for so many years to bring about this exact result announced, via a letter from United Way, that they had access to agency resources necessary to provide an emergency bed for each person staying in our shelter as well as the ability to work with each person to find a “suitable pathway out of homelessness.”
Wow! What a surprise! Where had those resources been the night before? Where had they been for the past twelve years? And those “agencies” to which they were alluding? They were, in fact, the ones currently sending — by the dozens! — their “overflow” to us every night. Most frighteningly, we knew that for the “intractably” homeless — for many of those too old or sick to be “productive” citizens, those the city was defining as “service resistant” — the “pathway out of homelessness” would often be a path to death or to prison.
And what would have been required of the Task Force in order for “our people” to receive such largesse? “Unfettered access“ to our premises and a binding agreement that within thirty days “Peachtree & Pine would be closed to any further homeless persons … seeking assistance.” With “unfettered access” to the Social Security numbers of our residents — information the community at Peachtree and Pine will never consider granting — sanitizers would have been able to track vulnerable people and, continuing the process begun before the Olympics, jail those who might have accumulated an additional strike or two for things such as “loitering,” “aggressive panhandling,” or urinating on a city that still refuses to provide public restrooms.
During 2009, the Battle of Atlanta entered a new phase. After enduring years of harassment, the Task Force via enormous pro bono efforts by the law firm, Baker Donelson, brought “tortious interference” and civil rights lawsuits against the city and some city “leaders.” Through discovery and deposition, our extraordinary lawyers, led by Steve Hall and Bob Brazier, began gathering conclusive evidence of what we have known all along: Task Force funders and partners, actual and potential, have been visited, threatened, and intimidated from offering what would have been life-saving support, and city officials have conspired with leading “leaders” — many of them within a local group with the misnomer Central Atlanta Progress (CAP) — to destroy us.
Early in 2010, in a counter-attack against our suits, CAP manipulators apparently participated in arranging for a phony, newly-created, Christian-sounding entity to buy up some of our debts while continuing to work so diligently to keep us from raising money to pay off those debts. The “Christian” entity immediately initiated foreclosure procedures, attempting a quick take-over of our building and destruction of our community. Fortunately, our lawyers — having on their side such clear proof of the shenanigans — continue to run circles around CAP and City law firms, and as people homeless on Atlanta’s streets worry about the approach of another winter, some wealthy Atlanta leaders are also being given a chance to feel what it is like to be vulnerable.
Meanwhile, a division of HUD has begun active oversight of counties and cities that have been taking federal money to develop affordable housing but not developing the housing. Because Atlanta has long been a major offender, the Task Force — through the efforts of another brilliant lawyer, Michael Allen, provided pro bono by the Washington law firm, Relman, Dane & Colfax — has initiated a Fair Housing suit on behalf of our most needful citizens. Relman, Dane & Colfax has already won multi-million dollar judgments against corrupt governments. Hamlet laments “the insolence of office,” the offense that has brought Atlanta to its Days of Reckoning. Beginning in 1996 when they, as I have said, “marked the Task Force for extinction,” Atlanta leaders apparently thought they could, with impunity, use any means they wished — including tampering with Federal funds — in order to crush our community.
After fourteen years of increasingly frantic, virtually psychotic efforts, they have not only failed, but have put themselves on the wrong side of The Law which many of them had grown up — as I had — believing they were above. Having failed to study and understand anarchist strengths and values concerning why, when, and how laws need to be broken, Atlanta’s Powers-That-Be are about to take a fall.
“Superfluous” — that’s what Shakespeare calls those who will not “see” because they do not “feel.” We, all of us, are called to be open to the possibility that Atlanta politicians — and those who pull their strings — thought they were doing what was best for our city, based on what they “saw.” Just think, though, what might happen if they actually become able, as did King Lear, to “feel what wretches feel.”
by B Wardlaw
October 2010: Central Atlanta Progress (CAP) Declares War on Homeless Shelter
This new, very readable article by Larry Keating (Retired Professor in the City & Regional Planning Program, Georgia Institute of Technology) exposes the sordid, criminal attempts by Central Atlanta Progress (CAP) to bring about the removal of the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless from its location at Peachtree and Pine. Read more»
May 9, 2010: On the afternoon of May 6, 2010, Washington, D.C. lawyers from the law firm of Relman and Dane filed a Fair Housing Complaint against the City of Atlanta, Central Atlanta Progress (“CAP”), and Atlanta Downtown Improvement District (“ADID”). The complaint filed with Washington HUD names the Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless as the aggrieved party. Washington HUD notifies Atlanta HUD. Read more»
See video interview»
Part 1 By Matthew Cardinale,
The Atlanta Progressive News
March 12, 2010: Email records and depositions of officials at Central Atlanta Progress (CAP) show that the City of Atlanta and CAP engaged in a multi-faceted conspiracy to sabotage the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless.
The efforts to destroy the shelter and drive it from existence included cutting off public funding, various lobbying efforts which resulted in loss of additional public funding, approaching private donors and partners of the Task Force, an extensive media campaign, and even working to push the Task Force into foreclosure. Read more»
Atlanta Progressive News--The first and bravest news agency reports on obtaining just some of the many depositions and exhibits in the case that reveal Central Atlanta Progress (CAP) lobbying the original lender for the several hundred thousand dollar mortgage to foreclose on the Task Force.
March 5, 2010, Atlanta Business Chronicle: Bob Cramer, former Board Chair for the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, published an editorial detailing ongoing attacks against the Task Force. Read more»
September 21, 2009: In the Superior Court of Fulton County, at 10:30 AM, Judge Ural Glanville denied a motion filed by The City of Atlanta attornies to dismiss the case, The Alanta Task Force for the Homeless v. The City of Atlanta (Mayor’s office). A motion had been filed for this hearing to compel Central Atlanta Progress to produce documents and A.J. Robinson, President and Richard Orr, Senior Projects Manager, for deposition. Read more»
July 31, 2009: Today the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless announces its lawsuit filed on July 29, 2009, against the City of Atlanta for interfering with the organization’s ability to raise funds and operate its emergency services for homeless men, women and children in the city.
“The harrassment and interference began seriously in 1994 and has gotten progressively worse, taking its toll on our funding,” reports Executive Director Anita Beaty. “We thank Steve Hall and the incredible team at the law firm of Baker Donelson for their skill and commitment to bring this case forward. We have waited a long time to shine the light on the harmful campaign that has damaged not only this agency but also homeless people.” Read more»
Find Out More About the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless
The Task Force's excellent YouTube channel
The Task Force's Facebook page
Dr. Jim Betty's Blog-- all the City's dirt here
Metro Atlanta Task Force for Homeless website
To access the shelter, volunteer, donate, attend the coffee house and just visit, please come on down or contact us at:
Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless
SHELTER HOTLINE: 404-447-3678
477 Peachtree Street @ Pine Street
Atlanta, GA 30308