Atlanta And Fulton County At Impasse On Homelessness

May 7, 2014

Fulton chair John Eaves, left, and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.
Credit & City of Atlanta

Atlanta and Fulton County are trading heated accusations over the breakdown of a homeless partnership and the upcoming closure of two homeless shelters.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed accuses Fulton County of turning its back on the region’s most vulnerable.

“Fulton County, which is a human services provider, is completely disinvesting in it and is going broke and is a national embarrassment and it’s closing homeless shelters,” said Reed on Tuesday.

Later this year, Fulton plans to halt operations at Springdale Place in south Atlanta, which houses around 50 homeless mothers and children, and the 150-bed Jefferson Place in west Atlanta.

Fulton chair John Eaves says the decision to close the shelters is tied to last year’s breakdown of the Tri-Jurisdictional (Tri-J) Collaborative, a decade-old partnership on homelessness between Fulton, DeKalb County, and the City of Atlanta.

Eaves stresses each jurisdiction is now responsible for its own homeless population, noting the two shelters slated to close are within Atlanta’s borders.

“The assertion that Fulton County is not doing anything is just unproductive and inaccurate," said Eaves. "We are now focusing on the other parts of our county - north Fulton and south Fulton - and Atlanta will be focusing its efforts within its own boundary."

DeKalb was the first jurisdiction to want out of the Tri-J. DeKalb Commissioner Jeff Rader said resource allocation was a source of disagreement.

“There are characteristics of the homeless need in DeKalb that are different than they are in Fulton and Atlanta," said Rader. "In DeKalb, our focus is probably more on homeless families and less on single homeless people.”

After DeKalb broke off, Atlanta asked Fulton to remain a partner. But according to Eaves, Atlanta’s proposed board make-up put Fulton at a clear disadvantage for resources.

“If there’s a true partnership, you don’t give us one seat and you retain four or five. That’s not a partnership. We found that unacceptable. We actually counter-offered with a 5-4 board designation and the city rejected that,” said Eaves.

A Reed spokeswoman denies any sort of power play and insists its board proposal was fair, adding the offer for Fulton to join Atlanta remains on the table. 

The prospect for future collaboration, however, appears dim.

Eaves says he’s in talks with various homeless groups to prepare for the closure of the two shelters. Reed’s office also says it’s in the planning stages to address the closures.