About Us

Why We Do What We Do?

We Have Provided Support Services for The Homeless Since 1989

Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless: The First Voice of Advocacy for the City’s Homeless

For more than 30 years, the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless has stood strong in its advocacy on behalf of the City of Atlanta’s most marginalized men, women and children.

The First Voice of Advocacy for the Homeless!

Our Vision

Our vision is to create a sustainable, inclusive community within a green building, including homeless, formerly homeless, never-been homeless people living, working, playing, learning and helping each other.

Our Mission

The mission of the Task Force is to advocate with and to represent the dignity and rights of people who are homeless in our society, toward the goal of preventing homelessness and seeking appropriate and affordable housing for all.

Our History

Founded in 1981, the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless has consistently served as the central coordinating agency for services to individuals who are homeless.  For the past 23 years we have served several hundred thousand individuals.

Historical Timeline

No Justice! No Peace!

The Historical timeline showcases the highlights of the organization over the past 30 years.

In the early 1980s, the country was in the middle of an economic recession, creating a wide range of financial impacts to all, but especially to those individuals already marginalized by low wages, rising unemployment, rising debt, rising prices and rising discrimination.  Like other urban areas across the nation, the City of Atlanta experienced a surge in the population of homeless men, especially in the downtown area.  In 1981, after 17 homeless men died during a rare Atlanta cold snap, then-Mayor Andrew Young called for community groups and churches to unite to help address this plight.

Community activists Anita and Jay Beaty and Joe Beasley stood at the forefront to answer this call, and in 1985 established the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless.  The organization began by collecting and distributing coats, blankets and food. “No Justice.  No Peace.”  These words later became the rallying cry for the gadfly Task Force, the first organization in the City to actively advocate for the homeless.  The initial home for the Task Force was located in Grant Park on Georgia Avenue, where the homeless were served for 20 years.  Over time, with new partners and deliberate momentum, the Task Force grew into the largest shelter facility for the homeless in the Southeast US., providing necessary services and programs to empower its residents to regain their independence.

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“No Justice.  No Peace.”  The 1980s and early 1990s were marked by lawsuits, demonstrations and protests to the City leaders against negligence of homelessness as a real, broad socio-economic issue that could not be addressed by short-term solutions designed to make the homeless men, women and children vanish or remain invisible to downtown tourists and developers. Protesters saw the harsh reality: during the 1980s, the availability of in low-income housing decreased, as did federal funding for the homeless, as noted in a report by the Task Force.  At the same time, vagrancy laws were more strictly enforced, including bans on sleeping in parks, public intoxication, public urination, loitering and panhandling. The City actually set up “hospitality zones,” mostly near downtown hotels; vagrants could be, and were often, physically removed from these areas, and many were arrested.  The opening of Underground Atlanta in 1989 drew much fanfare as the City’s newest tourist attraction.  But amid the fanfare, protesters claimed the City could have better used the funds to build affordable housing, but instead, was keeping its homeless population “underground,” in complete denial about these marginalized citizens of Atlanta and their individual and collective needs.

“No Justice.  No Peace.”  The 1990s brought more of the same denial and criminalization of the homeless, exacerbated by what was by then a 20-year period of the City’s razing most of its public housing, severely reducing single-room and low-income options.  Yet, by 1990, there were almost 10,000 homeless people in the City, a 50% increase over the previous decade.  A social justice movement erupted as the Task Force and other faith-based and secular organizations joined forces to occupy the abandoned Imperial Hotel in downtown Atlanta, allowing homeless people to move in until their demands for affordable housing were met, or until they were forcibly removed.  With national media coverage, the occupation lasted 16 days until then- Mayor Maynard Jackson reached an agreement with the group, promising that the City would build 3,500 single-room units during the next three-and-a-half years, and promised that city leaders would encourage additional private and non-profit efforts to address the issue of homelessness, with some success. Even the Imperial Hotel, labeled a landmark of a successful social justice movement, was later renovated into affordable housing units.

But in 1994, prior to Super Bowl XXVIII, held in Atlanta, then-Mayor Bill Campbell publicly denied the fact that the homeless were being “swept” off the streets, admitting, however, that he did order the police to enforce the ordinance against panhandling.  That year, at the groundbreaking of the newly renovated Woodruff Park downtown, chants of “No Justice.  No Peace.” interrupted the Mayor’s remarks.

In 1995, the Task Force gained new hope.  The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced $1 billion in new grants to fund coordinated homeless programs in major urban areas across the country.  Since the Task Force was best positioned as the umbrella organization to administer the grant here, Atlanta received $12.4 million, more than many cities with larger homeless populations.

The 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta showcased the City, but it was not a celebration for all.  The Task Force documented more than 9,000 arrests of homeless people from May 1995-May 1996, four times more than had been documented in previous years.  In 1996, Atlanta ranked #4 in the Top 10 Meanest Cities, a study by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. The City Council overwhelmingly supported the begging ordinance, prohibiting panhandling and begging in metro Atlanta, as if this effort would clear out “the undesirables.”  Fulton County began offering homeless individuals one-way bus tickets to anywhere they could prove they had a job or family, with the promise not to return to the county.  In addition to the ordinances against panhandling and loitering, the City passed the Urban Campaign ordinance that prohibited lying down, sleeping, regular meal preparation, and storing belongings on public property. The denigration and arrests continued.

The turning point came in 1997. William Wardlaw III paid $1.3 million for the vacant 96,000 square-foot building on the corner of Peachtree and Pine in downtown Atlanta. This facility became the new home of the Task Force, and, for 20 years, served more than 15,000 people annually, including providing 700 beds for overnight stay.  The agency was fielding 2,000 calls a month on its hotline for emergency housing and continued the use of technology to create a database on the homeless, an effort to give a face to the many faceless men, women and children in need.  This new start became the foundation for two decades of new and expanded private and non-profit partnerships and programs to address the myriad and complicated medical, psychological, emotional and job preparation needs of the Task Force’s residents.

In accordance with a June 2017 legal settlement with Central Atlanta Progress (CAP)/Atlanta Downtown Improvement District, the Task Force will vacate the Peachtree-Pine building and relocate current residents to other suitable facilities, while searching for a new headquarters. Through this transition and after, the Task Force will continue its advocacy for the rights of Atlanta’s homeless men, women and children, supporting its two-fold mission of providing direct services and advocating for policies and programs that address the social and economic platform on which homelessness stands. The Task Force combats four key issues contributing to homelessness – the lack of affordable housing, the shortage of living-wage jobs, the criminalization of poverty, and the inadequacy of the current health care system.

“No Justice.  No Peace.”  Throughout its history, the Task Force’s stellar leadership, forging crucial and ongoing partnerships with other organizations, corporations and the faith community, has been key to the agency’s success.  Anita Beaty served as executive director for more than 30 years, and the visual artist also created an art gallery at the shelter where the homeless could paint, display and sell their craft, showcasing some real artistic talent among the residents.  Upon her retirement in August 2017, Carl Hartrampf assumed the role of executive director, and Joe Beasley continues his advocacy as a Task Force board member, helping to guide policy decisions.

Together, they will continue to educate government, business and non-profit leaders that homelessness is not an individual’s choice: homelessness is what occurs when your options have run out, when the myriad social-economic dynamics that would normally propel you up and out instead converge to compromise and defeat you.  Despair, depression, desperation are all real, valid human conditions, and are magnified by embarrassment and isolation.

In this great, wealthy country of ours, why should any man, woman or child be homeless? The work continues…

“No Justice.  No Peace.”

Meet Our Board of Directors & Staff

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