Every night, an estimated 6,000 men, women, and children are homeless in Atlanta. Helping them during the dark hours of night and during the day are a variety of service providers — some working independently, some working together — with very few resources.
Leading one of those groups is Chuck Bowen, the executive director of the Central Outreach and Advocacy Center. After leaving his job in late 2006 as director of Georgia Equality, one of the Peach State's leading LGBTQ organizations, the openly gay South Carolina native signed on to lead the resource center located in the heart of downtown.
The center helps an estimated 8,000 homeless people navigate the tricky social-services system and try to get off the street every year. It even has a staff public policy advocacy director, who has helped homeless people register to vote. In addition to exploring whether the center should expand its services to become a "one-stop shop" for everything homeless men and women need, Bowen's not afraid to speak his mind. In January, he scolded the state after it shoo'ed along homeless men and women who lived for weeks on a ledge outside City Hall, the Fulton County Courthouse, and the Gold Dome. He's chided the state for not supporting MARTA. He's also reprimanded some churches for venturing downtown to hand out food in parking lots, a move that he says is disrespectful to men and women living on the streets and damages goodwill with the neighborhood. Bowen's courageousness, which is too often missing in civic discussions, smarts, and optimism help keep alive the effort to curb homelessness in downtown.
Putting a little thought behind the Thank You
'I think of all the people that I've helped, and now someone's helping me.'