ATLANTA — Governor Brian Kemp will decide whether to sign a bill designed to get homeless people off the street. Critics said it doesn’t actually do anything to end homelessness.
The city of Atlanta has laws against what’s described as urban camping. Monday lawmakers passed a bill requiring Atlanta and other cities to enforce such laws.
The urban camp like one that has formed under the Downtown Connector on Edgewood Avenue is among those many Georgia legislators see while driving into the state capitol each day to work.
"I see more and more and more homeless people on the sidewalks, under bridges, on the expressway areas. Everywhere, there’s just more and more of them," Sen Carden Summers (R-Cordele) told senators March 2.
Summers sponsored the bill that would require cities like Atlanta to enforce its urban camping laws, which make tent enclaves like the one on Edgewood technically illegal.
Tracey Woodard said she has been working to find housing for folks sleeping under this bridge.
"As a street outreach worker, it is my job to build trust with people who are sleeping outside. And this bill really restricts our timelines," Woodard said Tuesday.
Though some want help, she said many homeless folks tend to be distrustful of people trying to help them. The newly passed bill, she said, sidesteps the problems that put them in such camps.
"By restricting us, you’re restricting the kind of (housing) options we can offer our clients," she said.
Dwayne Brooks, who spent most of his adult life homeless, is more blunt.
"We don’t have no resources out here. I feel like they’re kicking us to the curb," Brooks said.
The bill does have a silver lining, one homeless advocate said Tuesday. It forced lawmakers to actually learn about the challenges of homelessness – some of which they took into consideration as they watered down the original bill.