Exactly how so-called Rapid Housing communities that aim to address Atlanta’s chronic homeless population could look and function is coming into clearer focus.

An Invest Atlanta update announcing that its board has approved a $7.5 million line of credit to construct hundreds of quick housing options provides the first glimpse at a community of repurposed shipping containers installed along downtown’s Forsyth Street.

According to that rendering, the project would be gated, with communal greenspaces and ramp-accessed decks connecting the homes made of refashioned containers on what’s currently an underused parking lot. Twenty different containers are shown arranged around the site. 

Plans for temporary micro housing at 184 Forsyth Street downtown.Partners for H.O.M.E./City of Atlanta; via Invest Atlanta

The Forsyth Street property in question and its downtown context. Invest Atlanta

According to Mayor Andre Dickens’ office, the Invest Atlanta 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.

Partners for H.O.M.E., working on behalf of Atlanta CoC, will announce the first community location in December, according to Invest Atlanta.

Dickens has predicted the housing options will have a small footprint but provide a substantial benefit to intown communities. 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 city unveiled plans two months ago to build the temporary homeless housing from former shipping containers on a South Downtown parking lot on Forsyth Street in the shadow of MARTA's Garnett station and another on underused property in Mechanicsville—the latter involving a land swap with Atlanta Public Schools.

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.

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


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