The City of Atlanta has taken a step toward providing quickly built alternatives to traditional shelters as a means of getting the city’s homeless off the streets and on paths toward better lives, officials said today.

The Invest Atlanta Board of Directors has approved a line of credit up to $7.5 million that will fund so-called rapid housing initiatives in Atlanta, as financed through the city's Housing Opportunity Bond Fund.

According to Mayor Andre Dickens’ office, that funding will enable the city and its partners The Atlanta Continuum of Care to start building flexible communities with 500 “low-cost micro units” that can be quickly built. Those units, according to the city, can serve as temporary, semipermanent, or permanent shelters and housing for Atlanta’s current unhoused population.

Dickens said the housing options will have a small footprint but provide a substantial benefit to intown communities. In August, the city unveiled plans to build temporary homeless housing from former shipping containers on a South Downtown parking lot on Forsyth Street and another on underused property in Mechanicsville—the latter involving a land swap with Atlanta Public Schools.

According to the city’s announcement today, the Partners for HOME program “anticipates introducing the first location of these [rapid housing] communities to the City of Atlanta by December 31” this year. (Partners for HOME works with Atlanta Continuum of Care, a HUD program, to help end homelessness around the city.) We’ve asked city officials if the $7.5 million approved by Invest Atlanta’s board will be used to open housing options on Forsyth Street, in Mechanicsville, or some other location first; we’ll update this article should clarity be provided.

All units will aim to provide low-barrier alternatives to traditional shelters with access to wraparound services such as healthcare and employment, per city officials. 

“The crisis we’re seeing of people experiencing homelessness calls for experimenting with new construction and product types that allow for rapid manufacturing developments we can put in place quickly,” Dickens said in a prepared statement. “We’re always seeking creative approaches to pilot and deliver new affordable housing options.”

Added Dr. Eloisa Klementich, Invest Atlanta president and CEO: “Through this investment, the city is continuing to address the spectrum of housing needs in Atlanta—from homelessness to homeownership—by providing more residents experiencing homelessness a flexible alternative to traditional homeless housing.”

Not everyone has applauded the city’s push for quick housing solutions.

Rapid housing plans have drawn criticism from a pro-business group that believes Forsyth Street is the wrong location for a village of shipping containers, in that it’s a food desert with a high concentration of nightclubs.   

In August, Dickens’ office issued an executive order to begin development of the new $4 million program that aims to help Atlanta’s homeless at 184 Forsyth Street downtown, in the shadow of a MARTA station. The strategy calls for using shipping containers—many of them donated by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, following use as temporary COVID-19 hospital facilities—as a relatively cheap, quick means of delivering rapid housing options.


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