Nonprofit told to stop serving homeless in downtown

Civilians help feed the homeless hot soup and crackers in Hurt Park at Georgia State University. Photo by Unique Rodriguez | The Signal

On Jan. 30, the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District Ambassador Force served a letter to the Atlanta Justice Alliance telling them to halt their service toward the homeless community in Woodruff Park. 

“In light of the need for each of us to adjust our behaviors to positively impact the course of the viral pandemic, we are making you aware that public feedings are not welcomed throughout the City of Atlanta,” the letter states.

Atlanta Justice Alliance posted the letter on their social media, where it gained feedback from their online followers. 

“Our mutual aid group was just served. They are demanding that we stop feeding the houseless and providing them with necessities,” the post states. 

The letter advised Atlanta Justice Alliance to partner with one of the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District’s approved nonprofit organizations since the Atlanta Justice Alliance is not on the corporation’s list of approved nonprofits downtown.

“Failure to conform to this health notice may result in enforcement actions to ensure the health and safety of the general public,” the letter states.

The Atlanta Justice Alliance is a local non-profit mutual aid group in Atlanta that frequently distributes essentials to downtown Atlanta’s homeless community. They are in Woodruff Park most Saturdays, providing the homeless with food, blankets, clothes and other necessities.

According to their recent Twitter posts, the organization still plans to visit Woodruff park to serve the homeless community this upcoming Saturday.

“We refuse. We will be there next Saturday, just like we have been all along. Respectfully, kiss our a—s,” the Alliance’s Twitter response states. 

Atlanta Justice Alliance was at Woodruff Park the Saturday following the notice’s distribution, and they have yet to receive repercussions.

“The intention of our letter is to encourage support for more comprehensive services through established homeless service agencies,” the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District’s Twitter response states. “Through our social impact program, ADID is committed to assisting vulnerable populations with critical needs.”

The letter referenced the dangers of distributing goods during a pandemic, even though the members are outdoors, wearing masks and gloves when serving the food to the patrons. 

“Public feedings do not conform to social distancing requirements and pose an immediate threat to not only those you intend to serve but to all members of the community,” the letter states. 

Atlanta Downtown Improvement District is a nonprofit, charitable organization with many initiatives to improve downtown Atlanta.

They were incorporated by Central Atlanta Progress in 1996, encompassing 220 blocks in the Atlanta area, including North Ave on the north, Memorial Drive on the south, Piedmont Ave, Downtown Connector on the east and the Norfolk rail line on the west. 

Their services include the Ambassador Force, capital projects, public space maintenance and social impact. The organization maintains Woodruff Park, and their Ambassador Force frequents Georgia State’s campus.

The Ambassador Force is a public safety initiative by Atlanta Downtown Improvement District that provides locals and tourists with a safe environment. They patrol the streets on bikes and Segways, but they also have surveillance cameras all around Atlanta. They hire off-duty cops to be a part of their operation. They also provide a cleaning service for the Downtown area, vacuuming trash and cleaning out trash bins. 

They work closely with Woodruff Park to provide continual solutions for those experiencing homelessness.

“The letter that our Ambassadors distribute is one small part of a much larger effort by our organization to provide comprehensive assistance to individuals in need,” the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District said in an email response. “In fact, we launched a very effective pilot program last fall called the Social Impact Safety Team, or ASIST.”

In September 2020, they launched the ASIST pilot program to assist the homeless community downtown to get the services they need, from food to medical assistance and social workers who specialize in crisis management and de-escalation. 

The corporation says they have enhanced and improved their food insecurity and homelessness programs, encouraging the Atlanta Justice Alliance to partner with one of their nonprofits rather than allowing them to work separately. The organization requires a permit for public feedings and gatherings, and permits are not currently available due to COVID-19 guidelines in the Atlanta area. 

Atlanta Downtown Improvement District is serving the homeless community through indoor feeding programs.

They have administered signs around the Atlanta area, prioritizing long-term hunger solutions and advising people to support “sanitary kitchens, safe shelters, and services that address hunger, housing, and mental health. Redirect your generosity to an organization that works daily to improve the lives of the people in need.”

The corporation is advising people to avoid these feedings and donating to the homeless in the streets. 

“Many people become dependent on these activities and stay on the street instead of seeking long-term support,” Atlanta Downtown Improvement District stated on their signs posted around Downtown.

The Atlanta Justice Alliance posted a photograph of the sign on their Twitter with the caption, “This is a sign they put up, that reads a lot like ‘don’t feed the bears.’”

Atlanta Justice Alliance has continued to serve the homeless community every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Woodruff Park since they received the notice. They are accepting donations of shoes, clothes, and blankets to distribute to the homeless. The organization has a CashApp and a Venmo available for patrons to donate, and they are looking for volunteers to help them distribute essentials to the homeless community and ask people to direct message them on social media if interested.