Friday, January 18, 2013

Atlanta seeks to understand the city's homeless population through voluntary registry

Posted By on Fri, Jan 18, 2013 at 6:12 PM

Michael Gullatte, who has been homeless for five years in Atlanta, gets his photo taken for the registry on Mitchell Street.
  • Dustin Chambers
  • Michael Gullatte, who has been homeless for five years in Atlanta, gets his photo taken for the registry on Mitchell Street.

Over the course of 12 hours last night and early this morning, Atlanta started work on its first-ever homeless registry. More than 150 volunteers surveyed nearly 400 men and women in shelters and on the city's streets in an effort to collect their personal data.

The voluntary registry occurred as part of Atlanta's larger Unsheltered No More effort, which aims to learn more about why people are homeless throughout the city. The survey asked for personal information - including mental health conditions, prior housing situations, drug abuse, and employment history - in order to create policy and help individuals find permanent housing in the future that's tailored to their specific needs.

As CL followed the city's registry efforts, we watched Atlanta's homeless individuals open up about their personal stories and life circumstances. Some were employed, while others had health conditions that prevented them for holding steady jobs.

Alex Nunn, pictured below, elaborated on how he ended up on the streets three months ago. The 52 year-old moved to Atlanta to live with his then-girlfriend following the completion of a three-year prison sentence. After a dispute, though, she kicked him out and he has since stayed in the city's shelters. Last night, he said that the shelter he usually sleeps at was full, which meant that he would spent the night roaming south downtown's streets.

"Things move quickly," says Nunn as he summarizes his story as we talked off of Forsyth Street near the Greyhound bus station and Magic City around 3 a.m.

Nunn is one tale of an unsheltered individual. What was striking last night, however, was the fact that most men and women have far different paths to homelessness. One common thread, as Atlanta Mission's Britton Clark notes, is that most homeless people have just "two or three" unfortunate turns that land them on the streets.

We'll post our full story on the city's homeless registry, which will continue next week due to last night's inclement weather, next week. For now, though, take a look at Dustin Chambers' photographs from Atlanta Mission and south downtown.

Volunteers help to register homeless men staying in the Atlanta Mission shelter.
  • Dustin Chambers
  • Volunteers help to register homeless men staying in the Atlanta Mission shelter.

Volunteer Bart Shull (left) surveys Alphonso Robinson.

Carrie Oliver (left) surveys Reco Temple. He is 34 years old and has been hospitalized for a heart condition three times in the past 30 days. He has seizures and is unable to get housing because he only receives $730 per month in disability payments.
  • Dustin Chambers
  • Carrie Oliver (left) surveys Reco Temple. He is 34 years old and has been hospitalized for a heart condition three times in the past 30 days. He has seizures and is unable to get housing because he only receives $730 per month in disability payments.

At the end of his interview, Alphonso Robinson gets his photo taken to be used in the homeless registry database.
  • Dustin Chambers
  • At the end of his interview, Alphonso Robinson gets his photo taken to be used in the homeless registry database.

James Quarterman has lived in Atlanta since 1968. Last year the courier business he worked for went out of business and he has since found it difficult to find another job. As a result, he has been staying in the shelter.
  • Dustin Chambers
  • James Quarterman has lived in Atlanta since 1968. Last year the courier business he worked for went out of business and he has since found it difficult to find another job. As a result, he has been staying in the shelter.

A volunteer helps to register a homeless man at the Atlanta Mission shelter.
  • Dustin Chambers
  • A volunteer helps to register a homeless man at the Atlanta Mission shelter.

Men sleep 20 to a room in the overflowing Atlanta Mission Shelter, which refuses to turn away anyone on nights when the temperature is below 35 degrees.
  • Dustin Chambers
  • Men sleep 20 to a room in the overflowing Atlanta Mission Shelter, which refuses to turn away anyone on nights when the temperature is below 35 degrees.

A stack of forms ready to be filled out for the registry.

Starting on Friday morning at 2 a.m., volunteer groups were dispatched to different hotspots of homelessness throughout the city and surveyed as many willing individuals as possible.
  • Dustin Chambers
  • Starting on Friday morning at 2 a.m., volunteer groups were dispatched to different "hotspots" of homelessness throughout the city and surveyed as many willing individuals as possible.

Michael Mitchner gets his photo taken for the registry.

Michael Gullatte sleeps on Mitchell Street regularly and has been homeless in Atlanta for five years.
  • Dustin Chambers
  • Michael Gullatte sleeps on Mitchell Street regularly and has been homeless in Atlanta for five years.

Alex Nunn, 52, has lived on Atlantas streets for three months following a three-year prison sentence.
  • Dustin Chambers
  • Alex Nunn, 52, has lived on Atlanta's streets for three months following a three-year prison sentence.

A volunteer looks at the groups route in downtown Atlanta. The red dots indicate homeless hotspots where unsheltered men and women sleep.
  • Dustin Chambers
  • A volunteer looks at the group's route in downtown Atlanta. The red dots indicate homeless "hotspots" where unsheltered men and women sleep.

Jonah Brown sleeps within eyesight of City Hall off of Central Ave. on a nightly basis.
  • Dustin Chambers
  • Jonah Brown sleeps within eyesight of City Hall off of Central Ave. on a nightly basis.

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