Last week, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed joined officials from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the State of Georgia’s Department of Community Affairs (DCA) to announce the Section 811 Project Rental Assistance Demonstration Program (PRA Demo) major grant award.
HUD and HHS awarded the Georgia Housing and Finance Authority (GHFA) $4.1 million for Georgians with disabilities who are likely to become homeless or unnecessary institutionalized.
"My administration is committed to reducing street homelessness in the City of Atlanta, and this grant will help our efforts tremendously," said Reed in a release. "We've already made great strides, and this grant furthers the Obama administration’s comprehensive strategy of preserving public housing for the working families, providing access to critical services and stemming the current loss of thousands of public housing units annually."
GHFA will use this source of federal funding to offer rental assistance to 150 extremely low-income persons with disabilities, many of whom are transitioning out of institutional settings or are at extreme risk of homelessness. By working together, HUD and HHS are helping states like Georgia to offer permanent housing and critically needed supportive services to ensure these at-risk individuals find their place within the fabric of their community.
The homelessness issue is one that the Midtown community has followed closely with the positioning of the large homeless shelter building at the corner of Peachtree and Pine streets just south of Midtown. It has been housing hundreds of homeless men on a daily basis for the last decade and a half. In addition to helping provide homeless persons needing immediate and emergency assistance, the 95,000 square-foot facility, the largest shelter space in the southeastern United States, has been a source from where a number of problems for Midtown and surrounding neighborhoods have generated.
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.
Last month, the City scored a major legal win over the Metropolitan Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless that could lead to the 2013 closing of the Task Force-operated Peachtree-Pine homeless shelter. In January, the Eleventh Circuit U.S. District Court 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 marked 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.
In February 2012, the Georgia Court of Appeals blocked a Fulton County superior court judge’s decision that the Task Force must relinquish control of the shelter. Control of the shelter was to be handed to the United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta, which was then going to assist the men who stay there find homes.
Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall represents District 2 where the shelter sits. While he declined to comment on the on-going legal flaps over the shelter, Hall did say the time is coming where a change will have to come with regards to the shelter and the men who stay there.
“There’s still a lot of energy around that of course in terms of the neighbors wanting to see some positive change there,” the councilman told Patch last month. “All-in-all, from a philosophical standpoint, I’m firmly behind smaller footprint, supportive housing with a case management and a total structure for job placement and training. If we don’t have that in small footprint facilities, I think it’s too difficult to manage on a large scale the individuals in such a large building.
“I think most of the organizations in the homeless community that offer services agree with that philosophy and I think as a city we have the will and all the resources to bear to make that change happen and to shift the paradigm. I believe it will happen it’s just a matter of time. The legal system is the legal system.”
The rental assistance announced last week supports the Obama Administration’s strategy to prevent and end homelessness. The Dedicating Opportunities to End Homelessness (DOEH) Initiative is a joint effort by HUD and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) to help communities match their homeless supports with other mainstream resources such as housing choice vouchers, public housing, private multifamily housing units, and other federally funded services.
The initiative is beginning in 10 critically important communities: Atlanta, Chicago, Fresno County, Los Angeles County, Houston, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Phoenix/Maricopa County, Seattle, and Tampa.
“This type of innovative and collaborative approach at the federal, state and local levels works to offer tangible and lasting solutions for those vulnerable persons who might otherwise be institutionalized or living on our streets,” said HUD Southeast Regional Administrator Ed Jennings, Jr. in a news release. “We’re assisting states to reduce their health care costs, improve the quality of life for persons with disabilities, and are working to end homelessness. That is smart government.”
HUD’s support of these state agencies is made possible through the Section 811 Project Rental Assistance Demonstration Program (PRA Demo) which enables persons with disabilities who earn less than 30 percent of median income to live in integrated mainstream settings. The state housing agencies are working closely with their state Medicaid and health and human service counterparts to identify, refer, and conduct outreach to persons with disabilities who require long-term services and supports to live independently.
“We are pleased that this partnership will provide much needed assistance to thousands of low-income individuals,” Renard L. Murray, D.M., CMS Regional Administrator - Atlanta and Dallas Regional Offices, said in a press release. “Many who receive Medicaid are moving from institutions into home- and community-based care. Many of these people are living with disabilities and are at risk of homelessness, and this partnership will give them freedom and resources to get the care they need in their own homes.”
Mike Beatty, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, noted in the release, “This is one of the most comprehensive partnerships we’ve entered into, with two major federal agencies and three Georgia agencies, plus the City of Atlanta, all working together to address a true problem for extremely low income citizens with disabilities, and I’m proud of the team that has developed this new program for Georgia.”
The Georgia Housing and Finance Authority, whose programs are administered by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, joined with the Georgia Department of Community Health, the state’s Medicaid Agency, in the development of Georgia’s Section 811 PRA Demo Program to further the state’s commitment to provide integrated housing opportunities with support services to extremely low income persons with disabilities. GHFA is the state entity allocating federal and state Low Income Housing Tax Credits and is the recipient of funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development under the federal HOME Investment Partnerships Program and Continuum of Care programs.