Task force members and Tucker city officials talk homelessness in first meeting

FILE PHOTOS: Natasha Tyson, RN-BSN, from Mercy Care checks Kelvin Scott’s temperature before he can enter a van for transport to a local hotel. Photo by Dean Hesse

Tucker, GA — Just two days after City Council deferred an ordinance on urban camping, a task force on Tucker’s homeless population met virtually.

Moderated by Alexis Weaver, a Tucker resident and senior manager at Atlanta Community Food Bank, joining the Zoom call were 30 city officials and experts on food insecurity, social work and the homeless community.

David Fisher, Networks Cooperative Ministry executive director, said the goal of community leaders and city officials is to maintain a safe community and safe living conditions for all Tucker residents, whether sheltered or unsheltered, and to create an enforceable code for police officers to eliminate problems caused by people living on public property.

“This desire comes from [the City’s] responsibility to protect the citizens and businesses of our town,” said Fisher. “The community comments I have heard portray a desire for compassionate interaction with neighbors living outdoors that provides a more holistic approach to homelessness without criminalizing our neighbors living in poverty.”

The number of people experiencing homelessness in Tucker is not currently known.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Georgia stopped counting people experiencing homelessness – known as a Point in Time Count (PIT). Typically, the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) conducts a PIT count through shelters, transitional housing and temporary housing. According to the DCA website, a PIT count was last held on Jan. 25. The data will be analyzed in March.

One community liaison, George Chidi, says it is impossible to know the exact count, but this year is especially uncertain. (Editor’s note: Chidi is a regular contributor to Decaturish.com, the parent company of Tucker Observer.) 

Before the pandemic, metro Atlanta’s homeless population was trending downward for 10 years. In November, the City of Atlanta allocated $18 million to move hundreds of chronically homeless into apartments across the metro area. This week, DeKalb County announced a $21 million federal grant to prevent more evictions during the pandemic. DeKalb County officials said there are about 8,000 cases in various stages in local courts, according to the AJC.

Tucker’s task force meeting, created out of opposition of the proposed urban camping ordinance, included City Council members Matt Robbins, Noelle Monferdini and Pat Soltys, who said the meeting was an important conversation that could not have been started without controversy.

Weaver said her dream is to see a community coalition on housing. One individual or one organization cannot alone solve homelessness.

“There are roles that each of us have to play and strategies each of us can come together around that can help us as a community, without resting the onus of action on any one sector or participant,” said Weaver.

Next steps include looping in DeKalb County Police Department, nonprofit community groups, Tucker business organizations, mental health and substance abuse professionals and people experiencing homelessness.

To get involved with the coalition, contact David Fisher at www.networkscoop.org.

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