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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Atlanta's homeless registry starts tomorrow

A homeless encampment next to the downtown connector.
  • Joeff Davis
  • A homeless encampment next to the downtown connector.

Over the course of tomorrow night and Friday morning, city officials, homeless service providers, and downtown boosters will attempt to register the city's homeless population to better understand the men, women, and children living on the street.

For 12 hours, professional service providers and volunteers will visit shelters and spots where homeless people are known to sleep to conduct interviews. The city calls the initiative the first of its kind in Atlanta.

The data collected will help inform the city's policies as they work toward Mayor Kasim Reed's eventual goal of placing at least 800 homeless people into permanent housing.

"It concerns me deeply that every night thousands of homeless individuals are sleeping on Atlanta's streets with nowhere to go and no hope for the future," Mayor Kasim Reed said in a statement. "My administration is committed to identifying the specific needs of our homeless population and matching them with available resources. The Street Homeless Registry is the first step to make that a reality, but we need hundreds of volunteers for this effort to be successful. I urge residents to consider volunteering for this vital initiative."

These efforts would assist the city's larger Unsheltered No More initiative, which works with community organizations such as United Way of Greater Atlanta, Hands-On Atlanta, and Central Atlanta Progress to combat homelessness.

Dave Wardell, who oversees CAP's Ambassador Force and often interacts with many homeless men and women in downtown, says that the collaboration will allow the creation of "long-term viable solutions" that are tailor-made for those people.

Volunteers seek to measure various factors about the homeless including their age, mental health history, prior housing situations, and whether they were violence victims. By collecting this information, Reed and other city officials hope they can better understand the needs of Atlanta's estimated 5,000 people who sleep in shelters or on the streets. According to Reese McCranie, spokesman for Mayor Reed, homeless individuals will receive $5 gift cards to McDonald's in exchange for their participation.

The mayor hopes that more than 300 volunteers will participate in the effort, particularly during the Friday morning shift.

Surveys will be conducted tomorrow from 6 p.m. to midnight for homeless individuals residing in overnight shelters, while the focus will shift to those situated outdoors on early Friday morning between midnight and 6 a.m.

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