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DeKalb County denies rejecting food donations at warming centers

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DeKalb County denies rejecting food donations at warming centers

FILE PHOTO USED FOR ILLUSTRATION PURPOSES: Barry Martin waits outside for the warming center at DeKalb County Fire Station No. 3 in Avondale Estates to open on Thursday Jan. 6, 2022. Photo by Dean Hesse.
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By Grace Donnelly, contributor 

DeKalb County, GA — A Facebook post claiming that a DeKalb County warming center rejected a donation of hot meals quickly spread among enraged community members on Monday. 

DeKalb County opened overnight and 24-hour warming centers over the weekend for unhoused residents, but county officials refuted the allegations in the post. There’s no record of food being turned away and DeKalb’s Human Services Department did not issue warnings to employees about accepting food, DeKalb County’s Chief Communications Officer Quinn Hudson said. 

“Employees have not been instructed to reject donations,” La’Keitha Carlos, Chief of Staff for DeKalb County CEO Michael L. Thurmond, said via email. “[T]o our knowledge, no county employees turned away food donations brought by or on behalf of any restaurant or organization.”

According to the Facebook post and two volunteers who collected and distributed donations for unhoused residents during the sub-freezing temperatures last week, the experience was frustrating and confusing. 

Most of the warming centers were eager to receive food and supplies, but staff at the North DeKalb Senior Center on Sunday evening told two volunteers who spoke with Decaturish that they were unable to accept servings of BBQ and pizza meant for the 44 individuals sheltering there. 

The food was later successfully distributed to the Frontline Response Center in Decatur. 

“The end result that I want is to know that our unhoused community members are being treated like humans,” said Sherri McCoy, who runs the Blessing Bags of Warmth for the Homeless and shared the story on Facebook.

While DeKalb does not have a homeless shelter, the county has invested $135,000 in a partnership with Frontline Response International, a Christian nonprofit, to better meet the needs of unhoused people this year. Frontline operates a facility on Gresham Road that provides meals and transportation and serves as an overnight warming center with 100 beds for individuals in Decatur and across DeKalb on nights when temperatures remain below 35 degrees for four hours or more. 

The Frontline location has served 3,825 people so far this winter, according to the county, up from about 1,500 citizens the county was able to serve last winter. A county-organized survey from 2022 projected an unhoused population of more than 2,000 people in DeKalb.

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