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Atlanta Homeless Advocates Demand Housing, Healthcare And Input On Solutions

ATLANTA, Ga. (CW69 News at 10) -- Attorney and activist Gerald Griggs captured video of  officers arresting protesters outside Atlanta City Hall on July 5, 2021. "Homeless advocates as well as the homeless were simply trying to get an audience with the mayor to discuss the disparities that are facing our homeless population," he said.

Officers charged several of them with criminal trespassing. "There's the Atlanta way of solving these issues, and that's by having meetings and by making changes," he said, also confirming a legal team is looking into the arrests. APD has not responded to our request for comment on the arrests.

Meanwhile, homeless advocates have continued their fight. "We don't have healthcare. We don't have a proper place that we can go shower. The knee is on our neck today," said Anthony Diesel, one of the advocates who spoke with CW69 three days after the arrests. "We are tired of having that knee on our neck."

They're demanding the city use money spent on shelters toward housing every homeless person, provide unhoused people with preventive medical care, guarantee showers and bathrooms and provide them with a seat at the table with city officials to allow their input. "If you reduce the homeless situation, you can bring more revenue to the City of Atlanta," said Atlanta Homeless Union Organizer William Price.

A city spokesperson issued this statement upon our request for comment:

Assisting individuals experiencing homelessness remains a priority for the Administration.

The City's continuum of care lead agency, Partners for HOME, as well as APD's HOPE team, were on site and provided housing assistance and resources to wraparound services to several individuals.

At the start of the pandemic, Mayor Bottoms set aside $1.5 million in emergency funding for homeless and displaced individuals, which was matched by an additional $1.5 million in philanthropic contributions. Through the non-profit Partners for HOME, we set up a comprehensive system for people experiencing homelessness to access housing assistance and wrap-around services. This is in addition to roughly $18 million in funding through the CARES Act and Emergency Solutions Grant that the City aligned and coordinated through the homeless continuum of care to create 800 new permanent housing placements.

Through these efforts, we have moved nearly 700 people from homelessness into permanent housing with ongoing wrap-around services.

Advocates say the statement did not specifically address the demands or the systemic gridlock that is often overlooked or downplayed. "Most of the homeless people have mental issues. They have health issues," Price said. "Most jobs require you to have an address to even apply," said advocate Vantez Mealer. "This issue affects everybody, whether you have a place to stay now or don't," another advocate Estevan Hernandez explained, referencing the domino effect of homelessness on the economy.

Griggs says advocates are still hoping to speak with the mayor, and a couple of council members agreed to meet with them this week.

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