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Report: Atlanta Mayor Leads Anti-Homeless Trend

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By Matthew Cardinale, Editor of Atlanta Progressive News (January 17, 2006)

(APN) ATLANTA--"There is a conspiracy among mayors since they hear the Mayor of Atlanta has outlawed panhandling," Michael Stoops, Executive Director of the National Coalition of the Homeless (NCH), said in a press conference, January 11, 2006.

"The Atlanta ordinance says this is how Atlanta is solving Atlanta's homeless problem. You're not aloud to say anything. You're not allowed to ask what time it is; you're not allowed to ask for directions. You're not allowed to ask for food. We don't consider that to be a model ordinance," Stoops said in response to a press question from Atlanta Progressive News.

"We consider Shirley Franklin to be a anti-homeless mayor," he asserted. Franklin is widely seen, though, as a progressive mayor.

The conference was held in DC; Atlanta Progressive News participated by phone.

NCH has partnered again with the National Law Center for Homelessness and Poverty (NLCHP) on their annual "criminalization of the homeless report." NCH published the report independently in recent years, and has again begun collaborating with NLCHP on the report as it had initially started out doing in 1999.

The report finds that homelessness is increasing, as is criminalization of homeless people, seeing as how cities nationwide are passing more and more anti-homeless ordinances.

"In the 67 cities surveyed in this report and in the 2002 [co-authored] report, there are currently more laws used to target homeless persons, including a 12% increase in laws prohibiting begging in certain public places and a 14% increase in laws prohibiting sitting or lying in certain public spaces," the report, "A Dream Denied: The Criminalization of the Homeless in U.S. Cities," says.

Mayor Franklin's press office referred APN's questions to a "legal expert," who did not return our calls prior to deadline.

"Atlanta is taking great strides to end chronic homelessness in Atlanta," City of Atlanta spokesperson, Catherine Woodling, told Atlanta Progressive News, however. "Chronic homelessness"-a Bush administration coinage-refers to those who are homeless due to mental illness, and ignores the causes of periodic homelessness such low wages and affordable housing.

Woodling was pleased to hear Atlanta had fallen from number 2 to the number 4 spot on the Meanest Cities list.

"We've been outdone," Anita Beaty, Director of the Metro Atlanta Task Force For the Homeless, told Atlanta Progressive News.

In other words, the problem has gotten worse in Atlanta, while it's gotten even more worse in other cities, Beaty says.

Criminalization is not a cost-effective way of dealing with homelessness, Maria Foscarinis, Executive Director of NLCHP, said. Jail costs 2-3 more times than housing for a homeless person, she said.

The City of Atlanta's Cathy Woodling pointed to a ten-year blueprint with the United Way to end homelessness in Atlanta. Such plans were recently developed in many cities. Woodling also pointed to a new shelter, the 24/7 Gateway Shelter, which was a main project of the blueprint, she said.

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Matthew Cardinale is Editor of Atlanta Progressive News. He has written previously for the Sun-Sentinel Newspaper, Shelterforce Magazine, The Advocate Magazine, The San Francisco Bay View, and the Berkeley Daily Planet Newspaper. He has also (more...)
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