Fulton County Superior Court Judge Craig Schwall Sr. issued an order this week allowing the owners of the building that houses the men’s shelter at Peachtree and Pine Streets to begin eviction of the shelter’s residents and management as early as next Thursday.
“The record is replete with evidence that the Property is in deplorable physical condition and cannot offer adequate benefit to the less fortunate members of society,the very persons whom the property is mandated to serve,” Schwall wrote in the order signed Monday.
“The Court is not assured that Plaintiffs have the best interests of these community members in mind,” the judge continued, and added in a footnote that “given Plaintiffs allegations and conduct, one could determine that Plaintffs are less concerned about the plight of their community and more concerned with embarrassing Defendants and tarnishing reputations.”
Stephen Hall, an attorney for Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, which mananges the shelter told Creative Loafing that he intends to appeal. But Schwall’s order states that it “shall not be stayed pending appeal,” meaning that an appeal won’t keep the eviction from going forward.
Even if an appeal could stall the eviction, a federal judge ruled in September that the City of Atlanta can demand payment of at least $147,000 that the shelter’s management owes for overdue water bills. If the bill isn’t paid, the city is authorized to cut off the shelter’s water service. With the shelter’s water cut off, it would probably be swiftly shut down by Fulton County’s health department.
The order was welcome news for the Midtown Ponce Security Alliance, which has long regarded the shelter as a nuisance. “It is with great hope that we will soon be writing the final debriefing for this dreadful phenomenon that has afflicted our community for many years…,” MPSA wrote in an online bulletin.
But the shelter’s management hasn’t given any indication that they intend to go quietly. Jim Beaty, who is married to Anity Beaty, the executive director of Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, wrote Thursday that the “angry [o]rder will be appealed, but no one knows what might happen.” Beaty also said in the post that some people plan to “occupy” the building and force the city to physically remove them.
Even with the Peachtree-Pine shelter open, people are already sleeping and stashing their belongings in every imaginable place in the neighborhood around it. Someone has recently even started sleeping standing up in a doorway outside my apartment building. (We’ve already nearly given each other a heart attack several times.) If that facility is shut down, a lot of questions remain about where the people who sleep there each night will go.
But Vince Smith, executive director of Atlanta’s Gateway Center said that preparations are being made to provide shelter for people who need it. When or if the shelter is shut down, Gateway and other organizations in the city are working together to establish a safety net for people who would otherwise find themselves back on the street at night, Smith said.
Update: The AJC reported that Judge Schwall vacated the dispossession order late Friday afternoon. According to the AJC story, the Task Force filed a motion to recuse, which somehow slipped through the cracks and has yet to be addressed by the court.
But even if Schwall’s order isn’t reinstated soon, there still remains the issue of the well over $100,000 that the shelter’s management owes for overdue water bills. That amount is due by the end of the month, the AJC reported, now just eight days away.