During the same week that the City of Atlanta is helping organize a large-scale volunteer effort to survey people sleeping in unsheltered locations and emergency shelters, the City scored a major legal win over the Metropolitan Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless on Tuesday that could lead to the 2013 closing of the Task Force-operated Peachtree-Pine homeless shelter just south of Midtown.
Maria Saporta of Saporta Report writes that the Eleventh Circuit U.S. District Court has upheld a 2011 lower court ruling in favor of the City after the Task Force filed a 2008 lawsuit in response to the City seeking to collect on delinquent water and sewer bills.
It’s the latest in a series of legal setbacks for the Task Force and is reportedly the end of the legal process at the federal level.
Saporta writes that the Eleventh Circuit agreed with the lower court ruling in that the “Task Force did not properly plead a First Amendment claim, that the Task Force did not demonstrate an equal protection violation by the city, and that the city did not deprive the Task Force of due process.”
The homeless shelter building at the corner of Peachtree and Pine streets has been housing hundreds of homeless men for last 15 or so years. That’s when Coca-Cola heiress Ednabelle Wardlaw purchased the 100,000-square-foot former auto parts warehouse and donated it to the the Task Force.
Over the last decade and a half, the shelter has generated a number of problems for Midtown and surrounding neighborhoods. Atlanta Police Department officials have confirmed that a certain amount of criminal activity that occurs in Midtown originates from those staying at and around the shelter.
The Task Force piled up more than $147,000 in unpaid utility bills over the years and three years ago, the nonprofit Ichthus Community Trust, bought two outstanding liens on the building and then foreclosed on it. Ever since, the Task Force has been fighting eviction through a series of lawsuits.
Last February, it looked as if the Task Force had run out of options as Fulton County Superior Court Judge Craig Schwall ordered the Task Force to leave the shelter and turn it over the United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta, which would take six months to find housing for the men who stay there.
But on the day the shelter was to be turned over the United Way – Feb. 15, 2012 - that decision was blocked by the Georgia Court of Appeals, which granted the stay until "it decides on the issues involving whether the Task Force can make a direct appeal to the Court."