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Community organizations continue to urge DeKalb County to improve warming centers

Decatur Metro ATL

Community organizations continue to urge DeKalb County to improve warming centers

Historian Sara Patenaude of Coalition for Diverse Decatur/DeKalb speaks to protestors assembled outside the Dekalb County Government Administration Building - Manuel J. Maloof Center during a rally held by Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights on Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Oct. 11, calling on DeKalb County Commissioners to remove the ‘Indian War’ cannon from the Decatur Square. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Decatur, GA  — As temperatures drop and are expected to be below freezing this week, DeKalb County residents and community organizations continue to press county leaders on their warming center policies. Members of the Coalitions for Diverse Decatur/DeKalb, Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights, the Justice for All Coalition, and A Home For Everyone In DeKalb will hold a press conference Friday, Jan. 7, at 9 a.m. in front of the Maloof Building, 1300 Commerce Drive in Decatur.

They plan to urge DeKalb County leaders to develop a consistent and comprehensive plan to address the needs of some of the most vulnerable residents, according to a press release.

The demands include opening more than the three fire stations to serve as warming centers for the whole county, basic accommodations like food and water and cots, wraparound support services, more advance notice of the opening of these centers, and transportation plans to make sure those who need shelter can find it.

“Our demand for equity is to identify inequitable policies by the government that cause harm to residents,” said Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights co-chair Phil Cuffey. “DeKalb County needs to offer more warming center services for the unhoused that rival Gwinnett County: a hot meal, shower, overnight stay and services to help our residents get back on their feet.”

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the nation’s housing affordability crisis. One in five renters is behind on rent and over 10 million homeowners are behind on mortgage payments.

“Any one of us is only two or three bad days away from homelessness,” said Sara Patenaude, chair of the Coalition for a Diverse DeKalb. “Providing adequate shelter to keep our unhoused neighbors from freezing to death is literally the least the county can do to address the issue of homelessness, one extreme manifestation of the affordable housing crisis in DeKalb and metro Atlanta.”

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