Atlanta councilman proposes converting city jail for homeless shelter

A rising number of homeless encampments are popping up around Atlanta.

In normal times, police will step in, order the tents be taken down, and call for advocates to come to a site and transport the street people.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said she is aware of the increase but police will not be moving them, at least not in the short term.

Health experts have told city officials it would be best not to "disturb" those temporary housing situations because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I don't see how this helps the homeless," said Councilman Howard Shook, a veteran council member.

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Shook suggested perhaps the almost vacant city jail might be opened as a shelter instead of letting sidewalks and bridge areas grow with homeless and all of their belongings that are out in the elements.

"That way," he added, "they could get medical attention.

City officials said they are not simply going to turn over the streets to the marginal population.

Near Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the city has a so-called homeless hotel where medical personnel can come in to check homeless. But that facility is full. When more options open up, the city will take a second look at all the encampments.

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