Monday, August 11, 2014

Judge: Peachtree-Pine shelter eviction proceedings can begin

Posted By on Mon, Aug 11, 2014 at 2:59 PM

Atlanta's largest homeless shelter could soon be forced out of its Downtown headquarters depending on the outcome of its eviction proceedings.

Last Friday, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Craig Schwall ruled that Premium Funding Solutions, the owners of the building at the intersection of Peachtree and Pine streets, can begin to take action in court against the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, its longtime tenant that houses up to 700 homeless men each night.

PFS, which received the deed to the property in 2011, has never received rent payments from the Task Force, according to the Daily Report. In a related legal battle, the homeless nonprofit has countersued its landlord in Schwall's court for wrongful foreclosure. Schwall's latest decision comes on the heels of a lengthy series of appeals - the latest one occurring last March. The Daily Report's Greg Land explains what last week's ruling means for the shelter:

Schwall, who is also overseeing the Task Force's separate suit against its landlord, wrote that he is "mindful of the claims regarding the wrongful foreclosure, fraudulent activity and interference with business relationships alleged by the [Task Force] in its suit against PFS" and others, and "remains wary of displacing the residents of the [shelter] under such claims... ."

But state law and clear legal precedent mandate that the dispossessory be allowed to proceed, he wrote.

Under Georgia law, a tenant who is challenging a foreclosure and refuses to leave a property must pay rent into the registry of the court, and PFS attorney Richard Robbins said Friday he hoped the long-sought dispossessory would proceed "like any other dispo. They can stay and challenge but they have to pay rent.

"Task Force attorney Steven Hall, who has asked Schwall to bring the litigation to trial, said he hoped all of the issues including the dispossessory can be handled at once.

The Task Force's ongoing dispute with PFS is one of several legal battles the homeless shelter has fought over the better part of the last decade. The city has fought with the nonprofit group over unpaid water and sewer bills. And, as the AJC's Rhonda Cook notes, Task Force director Anita Beaty has long accused city officials and business leaders of discouraging past donors from making charitable contributions as part of an effort to oust the homeless shelter from its Downtown location:

For years, the Task Force for the Homeless - led by Anita Beatty - has been at war with the city, Central Atlanta Progress and some of the business community because hundreds of homeless mill around and sometimes spill over into neighboring properties, vandalize and break into cars, businesses and homes nearby.

Beatty has accused city officials and CAP of a campaign to cut off donations because they want the homeless out of sight. Once the large donors were dissuaded from helping the Task Force, it became impossible for the charity to pay its bills, including hundreds of thousands of dollars it owned the city for water, she said.

The Task Force claims donations that once totaled as much as $1.7 million a year dropped to around $200,000, because the Atlanta business community had poisoned its reputation with donors.

So the Task Force must now pay rent to continue its legal fight.

Note: This story has been updated to correct an error. The Peachtree-Pine shelter is located in Downtown, not Midtown.

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