Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Eaves fires back at Reed over homelessness column critique

Posted By on Tue, May 6, 2014 at 6:23 PM

Welcome to the party, Fulton County Chairman John Eaves! In a press statement, Eaves responds to Mayor Kasim Reed's take on a CL editorial board column published last week about homelessness.

Fulton Cannot Be All Things to All People, It's Takes the Entire Village to Solve Homelessness

In a recent editorial in the Creative Loafing on the plight of the homeless, the statement was made that, "It's Fulton, by law, that's supposed to provide those mental health and addiction counseling services. But the county for years has not taken ownership of its responsibility like it should. The city can be blamed for not engaging their colleagues across the street over the years. But the responsibility still rests on county officials' shoulders." Moreover, in a statement released on May 5, 2014, Mayor Kasim Reed unhappy with the editorial board's criticism of the City of Atlanta and in what has become his classic form of deflection from accountability, decided to cast aspersions on Fulton County and railed that "The reality is Fulton County is abandoning its historic role as a human services provider because of its diminished financial capacity. Notably, the editorial board made no mention of this glaring reality, despite the fact that it is readily apparent in the county's most recent budget. It's also interesting that despite the fact that Fulton County should have a lead role in dealing with human services issues, the Creative Loafing editorial board chose to focus on the City of Atlanta, which has taken decisive action on this issue consistently."

Upon reading the Mayor's rant I could not help but think, "Really Reed?". The irony found in both statements is that Fulton has been frequently criticized for its many human service programs that have for decades served our most vulnerable citizens - the poor, the disabled, the elderly and children. In fact many of our citizens in the North and members of the General Assembly have made it abundantly clear that these types of services and programs are NOT where they want their tax dollars spent. Phil Kent most recently on WAGA-TV's Georgia Gang lauded Fulton for being fiscally responsible and efficient in no longer duplicating services for the homeless with the closing of these two shelters. Our homestead exemption has been raised to a higher level than any county in the state ($30,000) and there were efforts to raise it to $60,000 which would further have crippled the County's general fund revenue which pays for most of the very services of which we speak.

Do we want to close Springdale Place and Jefferson Place? Absolutely not, but we are faced with little choice with the dissolving of the TRI-J which we advocated for keeping together because we knew what the results would be for our homeless population. Did the City invite us to join them? Yes, but they also requested that they control the process and quite frankly the City hasn't shown us in the past (see cost of Jail purchase) that their olive branches don't come without thorns. A prime example, the City of Atlanta has reduced funding to the Supportive Housing Grant Program by $683,000 effective October 2014. As a result of this loss in funding, the County will have to cease operating their case management services at that time. We are pleased and appreciate however, that one of our Commissioners was allowed a seat at the City's table.

Admittedly both the City and the County must work together to help the homeless in Fulton. I will not debate the very real and truthful fact which is at the crux of the Creative Loafing article, that we simply must and should do better. A really great start for the City and the County would be for us to work together to save both Springdale Place and Jefferson Place. Government cooperation along with support from the private sector and providers skilled at handling the unique needs of this population would be steps in the right direction. Patting ourselves on the back while pointing fingers looks nice in press releases and may get you air time on television and radio or a paragraph or two in the newspaper but it does not solve the problem.

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