Thursday, April 4, 2013

Metro Task Force for the Homeless wins two appeals, endless legal battles to continue

Posted By on Thu, Apr 4, 2013 at 3:11 PM

As Thomas briefly mentioned in First Slice earlier this week, the Metro Task Force for the Homeless continues its fight to stay situated at the corner of Peachtree and Pine streets. The nonprofit, which has been battling the city and downtown business leaders for nearly five years, recently won two appeals that would keep its fight going for the foreseeable future.

The Georgia Court of Appeals overturned Fulton County Superior Court Judge Craig Schwall's February 2012 ruling that denied the task force, which houses approximately 700 men each night in Atlanta's largest shelter, the chance to properly make its case.

"The Task Force was entitled to a trial on the issues, which would include taking the testimony of witnesses orally in open court," Chief Judge John Ellington and Judge Stephen Lewis A. Dillard wrote. "Accordingly, the court erred by granting a writ of possession."

The downtown shelter had previously claimed that the 95,000-square-foot property's lien, acquired by a then-newly created nonprofit named the Ichthus Community Trust, was purchased in an illegal attempt to kick the organization out of the facility. When Ichthus later foreclosed on the property, the task force filed two separate lawsuits against Central Atlanta Progress and the city - the latter case was dismissed in September 2011.

"We think we're winning," task force executive director Anita Beaty told Atlanta Progressive News. "This is a good indication we're going to trial and all the evidence that we have accumulated is going to be exposed, and that is a very good thing." Beaty declined to speak with CL for this story.

Earlier this year, several judges turned down another appeal in a separate case over the task force's unpaid water bills. In 2008, the city shut off water service at the facility after the task force failed to pay more than $160,000.

Task force attorney Steve Hall also refused to comment, citing CL's past coverage. Hall, however, recently said that he hopes all the outstanding legal issues would be dealt with in a single trial.

"Our position has always been, to the extent we have not paid the mortgage or the water bill, it's because people have prevented the Task Force from being able to do that by ... [interfering with] their relationship with their donors, and that's what we're arguing," Hall told APN.

The next step is for Schwall to reschedule the case in his court. We'll continue to follow the legal proceedings surrounding the shelter.

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