Atlanta cracking down on homeless camps, finding temporary housing for those in need

Atlanta is cracking down on homeless camps. On Monday, the city sent out police to clear out an encampment under the Cheshire Bridge between Buford Highway and Interstate 85 after several fires burned out of control. Officials say a few unhoused people were trying to stay warm.

At the same time, the city is also trying to find other housing options for the people they cleared out. A city council member and the residents who live near those encampments say it’s a step in the right direction.

"I think that’s a great idea," said Mason Jay, who lives in an apartment building in northeast Atlanta. Jay says fires break out in the woods near his home all too often. "Weekly, it’s a weekly thing."

Unsheltered people camp out in the woods. They sometimes set fires to keep warm on cold nights. The flames, at times, burn out of control.

"It’s a hazard to the community," Jay said.

The city sent out police to clear out a camp under Cheshire Bridge on Monday morning. The people who lived at the makeshift campsite are being moved, temporarily, to the old athletic club in what used to be Atlanta Medical Center. AMC closed in 2022 after its parent company, Wellstar, claimed it lost more than $100 million dollars in a little more than a year.

"We need to provide support and resources for the unsheltered community," said City Council member Keisha Waites, who has pushed to convert the former medical center into transitional housing and a crisis-response center. Waites says sheltering unhoused people at the site is moving in the right direction.

"I am proud of the mayor and this administration and the council for taking this step forward," Waites said. "Access to safe and sanitary housing is absolutely essential for any family or individual."

A spokesperson for Mayor Dickens' office says the city is offering medical care and other services as it builds longer-term housing to get people off the streets. He says the city will close more camps under bridges due to safety concerns.