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Council Committee Seeks AHA Eviction, Relocation Data
(APN) ATLANTA -- Councilman Ivory Young (District 3) of the Community Development/Human Resources Committee of the City Council of Atlanta requested the Atlanta Housing Authority provide data and information on the status of displaced families and seniors as a result of the recent round of public housing demolitions.
Shean Atkins, Director of Community Partnerships at Atlanta Housing Authority, had been there to provide a quarterly update on what it Orwellianly refers to as the Phase II of its Quality of Life Initiative.
Incidentally, Atkins was a former legislative aide to former Councilman Jim Maddox (District 11), former Chairman of CD/HR.
Atkins did not mention a word in his presentation as to the outcomes for families or seniors in terms of their well-being, instead choosing to focus on the status of the buildings.
Atkins said that Thomasville Heights had been completely demolished; that Bowen Homes, Herndon Homes, and Hollywood Courts were almost complete; and that Bankhead Courts was in process of being demolished. Atkins made no mention of Palmer House or Roosevelt House, two senior highrises that were part of Phase II as well.
"What I'm concerned about, if you could, I'm interested in looking at a spread--you mentioned five developments in total at the start of your presentation... if we could have a spreadsheet that listed at the time before closing what the populations were, if we could also list, a certain number of those were given vouchers to find housing, and a certain number of those successfully identified housing," Young asked.
"I'd be interested to know how many of those in that category-- the total population, the numbers of folks inside those developments that successfully found alternative housing, and then second, those who just were successful in getting the voucher and then were supported, may not have necessarily found permanent housing, but were given a voucher to find housing," Young said.
"Ideally, I'm interested to know how many, if any, fell through the cracks as far as in this transition," Young said.
"I can get those numbers for you," Atkins said.
"All those families eligible to receive a voucher did receive a voucher and they were relocated successfully," Atkins said.
"If there were a situation where a family did not find housing before they were leaving the property, then we provided temporary housing for them until they found a place of their liking," Atkins said.
General Larry Platt, a former resident of Palmer House, was there to make public comment. He said that the AHA had tricked him into believing they were moving him to someplace nice, but that he is unhappy in his new neighborhood, which he says is infested with drug dealing.
The quarterly updates were a result of legislation introduced by Councilwoman Felicia Moore (District 9) in early 2008. Atlanta Progressive News had worked with Moore on developing the legislation, and had advocated for its passage.
In 2010, when Councilwoman Joyce Sheperd (District 12) took over the CD/HR Cmte, advocate Ben Howard and APN had pushed for the promised quarterly reports to begin taking place. The previous Chairman, Mr. Maddox, had had no appetite for that kind of oversight.
In AHA's last quarterly report of 2010, AHA did not address the displaced residents or seniors, instead focusing on renovations occurring at remaining AHA senior properties in the City of Atlanta, funded with federal stimulus dollars.
APN then presented information on its reporting concerning the high numbers of deaths of seniors at Palmer House and Roosevelt House during the relocation process for those two senior highrises affected by demolitions, which the agency attempted to refute by confusing the issue and with falsehoods.
However, no Council Member felt the need to ask any questions that day, except for Councilman Kwanza Hall (District 2) who asked about the status of the properties at Palmer and Roosevelt House. The Councilman did not seem to understand--nor did the agency clarify--that the properties will sit empty until a call for proposals is put out to developers; there were never any plans for the redevelopment of the properties [other than perhaps those conjured privately by developers].
Therefore, Thursday's questioning marked a new tone of oversight for the Committee, and may be the first time a governmental body has formally sought such data regarding these particular communities.
Currently, there are several research projects which are examining the fate of the residents at the QLI communities.
One such project, by Profs. Deirdre Oakley, Erin Ruel, and others at the Department of Sociology at Georgia State University, became part of the Congressional record when US Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) held an oversight hearing on public housing demolitions last year.
It will be interesting to see how AHA's internal data compares with GSU's independently-collected data.
The GSU study grew out of a meeting with academics organized by APN in conjunction with Dianne Wright, then the President of the Resident Advisory Board and President of Hollywood Courts. As previously reported by APN, AHA attempted to sabotage GSU's study in numerous ways.
However, Oakley and others worked directly with the resident leadership in various communities to gain access to the residents and took their own independent surveys, including some questions written by APN and Wright.
The AHA was probably thrilled to have their January 2011 briefing on a day other than the regularly-scheduled day for the Cmte meeting.
It is not immediately clear whether the City complied with the pre-meeting advertising requirements under the Georgia Open Meetings Act; some citizens were not aware that the meeting had been rescheduled.
(END / 2011)
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