Antonio Brian is a homeless disabled veteran, a native of Atlanta, and a participant in the Police Assisted Diversion (PAD) program. I have been fighting substance abuse, mental illness, and PTSD due to my service in the US army in 1983. An 81 wheeler accident in 2017 left me disabled and a mental breakdown left me homeless and self-medicating on the streets. In 2018, I found the PAD program and they saved my life.
QUESTION: How do you plan to end homelessness and to continue to fund PAD and other organizations that are making a difference in lives like mine?
Kasim Reed – I’m going to have $2 million in a dedicated revenue stream that comes from Atlanta. Next, our construction permits in real estate should be linked with making sure people aren’t homeless. Third, we are going to have an anti-displacement initiative that monitors water bills because when a person can’t pay their water bill they are on their way to being homeless. Also, we will use city-owned land to build homes for the homeless.
Sharon Gay – If people understood how complex this problem is – with substance abuse problems and mental illness challenges – they would be more willing to support the homeless through private donations and philanthropic dollars. We could look at ways to increase city funding and to bring in more state money. Also to cut down the cost of building new supportive housing by using city-owned land.
Andre Dickens – Los Angeles uses 1% of construction dollars for affordable housing and Atlanta can also do that. Affordable housing includes homelessness or housing as 0% AMI. We have to build on all that Atlanta Housing Authority land with multifamily, mixed-income, and mixed-use and have homelessness as part of affordable housing.
Antonio Brown – I meet tons of veterans struggling with substance abuse, PTSD, and mental illness which makes it more difficult for them to get services. We need to keep up with the exploding homeless problems and build on a mass scale with modular housing. We would house Mercy Care facilities within these modular communities for unsheltered populations and working-class folks. The Housing opportunity bond has $100 million and I will commit 20% of those additional funds to address our unsheltered population with a 24-hour non-emergency response unit serving our residents.
Felicia Moore – Mr. Brian your story is an example of what PAD was designed to do and we will continue working with PAD and expand it. The unsheltered population is on a large spectrum from veterans to single women and men, to single women with children to intact families and they have different needs. Many of them have to go outside of the city to find a place. Atlanta can’t resolve these issues on our own, so I’ve got to go to the governor and the leadership at the state and federal government to get the funding.
Ms. Holloman: My family has experienced homelessness more times than I can remember. Our landlord sold the house we were staying in during the pandemic. We were given 60 days to find another place but we live paycheck to paycheck. We have an eviction on our record plus my husband has a felony conviction. We saved money for a downpayment on a house and got enough for an FHA loan. But after 60 days we were homeless again.
QUESTION; What would you do about the barriers set in place for people without a home trying to navigate a system that seems to work more against them than for them. What would you do to address these issues that make it nearly impossible for families to access safe and affordable housing
Andre Dickens – Working with groups like the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA) is huge and being able to say your previous eviction history or incarceration history should not be held against you. They fought all the mortgage fraud of 2008 and the recession. I want to make sure they are part of our housing solutions in Atlanta for people like you that want to buy a home.
We have to strengthen our tenant’s rights and the Chief Housing Officer is able to navigate and work with Volunteer Lawyers Foundation or Atlanta Legal Aid Society to be able to file briefings to not evict people. Open Door through Continuum Of Care and Partners for Homes have apartments already secured where we can rehouse people being evicted immediately.
Antonio Brown -My family has experienced homelessness and I know the pathway back seems out of reach. I will be working with the state legislation, and the governor to help ensure that there are limitations on how far back landlords can go to discriminate against someone because of their background, especially if they have paid their dues back to society. We have to do better with financial literacy and credit because those are two burdens that keep people down.
Felicia Moore – We are looking at building affordable units on city-owned property with 10 to 20 percent of those units for people who need to be housed immediately. We need to work with our private landowners to get them to relax some of the rules. There are many barriers out there that we as a city need to help our citizens overcome.
Kasim Reed – We are going to create an office of anti-displacement and it will be staffed by social workers, and lawyers who can help you. We also need an office within the Atlanta Housing Authority that meets the needs of people in your situation. We need for the city to push back because the landlord and the private sector are using forceful tactics to push people out of rentals if they can get more money. People who have lived here for generations should not be pushed out because Atlanta is having unprecedented prosperity. Senior citizens are offered $100K for a house they could get $350K because they don’t have anybody to assess the transaction.
Part Three of this series will be published later this week. It will discuss the closing of the Peachtree and Pine shelter.
Written and photos by Gloria Tatum