Tumblr blogger madhouseimages shares an incredible set of photos taken on an abandoned bridge near Downtown Atlanta where a homeless man named Curtis has set up camp. A quote from the post:
This is where Curtis lives, Bankhead Avenue abandoned bridge…He told me being homeless wasn’t easy but if there were a good place to live, this was it. The bridge provided him solid housing, a tropical climate in a remote location, and nice tourists coming by with cameras and taking pictures of him.
Living Downtown, we see homeless people every day. Almost every time we walk out of our building we encounter people carrying their belongings in bags, sifting through the trash cans of Fairlie-Poplar for food, and camping out in front of hotels to ask guests for money as they leave and enter. It’s rare for me to go a whole day without being asked for money once or twice on the street.
It can be a challenging place for a family to live, but the challenges of residents are nothing, of course, compared to those experienced every minute of the day by homeless people (keep in mind, Atlanta, that just because you may not live near & see homeless people every day in your own neighborhood, they’re still here in your city, still in need).
The AJC has a good video this week about the VERY divisive topic of public feedings for homeless people. Church groups bring food to Hurt Park and other spots every weekend to feed homeless people. In general, the argument against these feedings is that they’re unsanitary (the food trash left behind draws rats) and that they represent misspent energy that should instead be focused on helping providers of long-term services for homeless — such as shelters — do this work as they know best.
In general, I agree with the detractors. Full-time providers of services for the homeless are the experts, so trust them with your money and your volunteer time so that homeless people get what they truly need in a sustainable way (they are, for instance, in need of food more often that just one weekend day). But, obviously, this is a hard line to argue; who wants to tell churches to stop bringing food to the park? You sound crazy when you say it.
In my opinion, the most harmful thing that’s done to homeless people in Atlanta is allowing homelessness to be so concentrated in one area and hidden from view. The usual argument for this is that it’s easier to serve homeless people when they are in one area and that MARTA access to the area is easy. But after my 20 years of exploring, photographing and now living in Downtown, I’m not buying it.
Concentrated poverty is never a good thing, whether it takes the form of our long-gone public housing projects or the shelters, surface lots and overpasses Downtown where homelessness is centered. It makes the problem too easy to ignore — many Atlantans avoid going Downtown for various reasons, and that keeps homelessness out of view. It also makes it too easy for drug dealers to prey on homeless people trying to recover from addiction.
A Creative Loafing post from earlier this year has a quote from Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed:
The issue of homelessness is deeply personal to me. I believe in the principle laid out by Ghandi that any society should be “measured by how it treats its weakest members”…My administration remains committed to getting the right resources to our homeless population.
This alleged commitment is hard to see from where I’m standing. I wonder how much time the mayor spends walking around Downtown.