DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. (CW69 News at 10) -- A group of homeless advocates say DeKalb County is falling short in providing warm shelter and resources for people during the winter. They're demanding officials take action to get homeless neighbors off the streets and in from the cold.
Dr. Sara Patenaude, the chair of Coalition for a Diverse DeKalb, was the first to address the topic at a press conference held outside of the DeKalb County Administrative Offices on Friday, January 7, 2022. She was joined by members of the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights, A Home for Everyone in DeKalb, and the Justice for All Coalition.
"That DeKalb County was caught with its pants down this winter in providing shelter for unhoused residents is completely unacceptable," Patenaude said, also calling the county's recent opening of three warming centers inadequate. "DeKalb County must open more warming centers throughout the county, which provide a shower, a hot meal, a cot to sleep on, and connection to wrap-around support services."
The advocates are also demanding the county give 48 hours' notice before opening the warming centers and transport homeless people to those centers.
"As a party of homelessness and to know people that have been homeless, it's a forgotten community," said David Coney, a Decatur resident.
Reverend Paul Turner, the pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, said now is the time to act.
"Find an opening someplace that's better than a fire station that will provide food, that will give people something to drink and a place to lay their head," Turner said.
DeKalb County Community Development Director Allen Mitchell said the county is well-known and recognized for its efforts to provide services to the homeless.
"We have an elaborate Continuum of Care to eradicate homeless in DeKalb County and have been for years," Mitchell said.
The county receives millions of federal dollars to help homeless individuals and veterans. Officials say an outreach team visits homeless encampments year-round.
"The county currently is housing in excess of 157 homeless individuals in hotels," said Mitchell. However, he said not many people are using the warming centers.
"For five separate days, we've had nine people to show up," he said.
Advocates insist the information and resources are not reaching the full homeless population.
County officials say they're willing to meet with advocates to discuss their concerns. The county is also planning an annual Point-in-Time (PIT) count of homeless people near the end of January, where they'll offer resources to those in need. The PIT count is required by HUD for Continuums of Care nationwide.
Anyone needing assistance with homeless placement in DeKalb County can call the Coordinated Entry hotline at 404-687-3500.
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