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Transitional housing program moves forward in Stone Mountain

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Transitional housing program moves forward in Stone Mountain

City of Stone Mountain Municipal Building. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Stone Mountain, GA — During its Feb. 20 work session, the Stone Mountain City Council held a hearing for and unanimously approved a special use permit for 703 Main Street.

The special use permit will allow the applicant, Charlene Kirk, to operate a transitional housing program on the property specifically for women transitioning out of homelessness. 

The program is meant to be a “final step” of sorts for women experiencing housing insecurity. According to the staff report, the program operated out of the building on the property will “provide 24-hour service/operation for up to four residents. This would include housing and counseling for the residents in a three to six month cycle.”

At the last council meeting on Feb. 5, Kirk presented to the council specifics about her background and how the program will operate. 

Kirk detailed that she runs an organization that works with unhoused people, particularly women, who are experiencing incoming and housing insecurity for a variety of systemic reasons such as escaping domestic violence, inadequate mental health support, or even just job loss. It was in doing this work that Kirk identified the need for this kind of program targeted at helping women overcome a crucial obstacle in their way on their journey toward financial stability. 

Kirk explained how even unhoused people with jobs can be left in limbo as they wait on housing vouchers. 

Kirk said, “This [program] is just a transition from the shelters because your time may very well be up at the shelter, and now you need somewhere else to go” 

Responding to questions from the council, Kirk went over how someone qualifies to participate in this program. The program is only serving women—no children or families—and to participate, they must already have employment. Kirk stressed that this is a new model for transitional housing, saying how much participants pay to participate will vary based on income.  

Kirk also talked about how she plans to use contacts from other projects to provide onsite counseling and financial literacy training, detailing one request that will be made of participants is that 30% of their income be put in their savings. 

On Feb. 20 before the vote, Kirk became emotional, choking up addressing the council saying, “This process has been literally … Overwhelming…I’ve gotten so many calls from different shelters with people asking, ‘Ms. Charlene, have you gotten your program running yet?’ .… I don’t have anywhere for them to go… But I have a house right down the street, and it’s empty…people are waiting.” 

Several citizens spoke in favor of approval and no one spoke against it.  

Councilmember Shawnette Bryant asked several further questions about general operation after both presentations, but ultimately the council unanimously approved the special use permit. 

In other news:

— The city will host Community Table Talks over the next few days. The city is looking for stakeholder input on some of the major outdoor projects it will be undertaking, namely the Baptist Lawn Amphitheater. More information about dates and locations can be found here on the city’s home page under the latest news tab. 

— Ordinance language mostly formalizing the status quo for scheduling city council meetings passed 4-2 with Councilmembers Gil Freeman and Shawnette Bryant voting against it. Before this, only one meeting a month was required by the code and the type of was not specified. The new language formalizes what the council has been doing, meeting twice a month for a regular meeting and a work session. 

The only substantial change in the new language is that now only the mayor or three council members can call special meetings. 

— The city also unanimously passed a moratorium on the approval of convenience stores for 180 days. The city intends to use this time to look through the code, and research best practices around policy for approval of, what many in the city have complained is too vague a category of, “convenience-type” stores.   

— The Downtown Development Authority announced Maggie Dimov as the New Economic Director. 

— Councilmember Gil Freeman added three items to the agenda for discussion on behalf of the Park and Recreation committee: a book bench project, Signage for Parks and a request for the amount of funds Parks and Rec has access to. The last two were specifically presented at the last meeting, so the information was distributed by the City Manager. 

The Book Bench project, voted on by the Parks and Rec committee at their previous meeting on Feb. 15, would be a project to install several “Book Benches”—benches that look like books—around the city in an attempt to “promote literacy”. It would cost about $40,000. 

City Manager Darnetta Tyus responded to the book bench project saying that this new project is not budgeted and recommended saving the project for when the city is looking to brainstorm the 2025 budget.

Tyus explained why SPLOST I can’t be used to fund it, as the funds are already committed. Tyus suggested SPLOST II to fund these projects may not be ideal, partially because it will be accessible in June and partially because it is coming in chunks, not as a big pool.

The details of how the project would be executed and, crucially if executing it in a certain way—such as having a jury to select artists and giving out rewards to artists who participate as was proposed—would eliminate certain options were unclear, so the council informally remanded the project back to the committee. 

— The council postponed approval of a new ordinance formalizing language in the city code around “calling the question”, a common procedural rule where debate can be ended by calling for a vote. Several citizens spoke out against this as “stifling dissent”. 

— Council also discussed potentially outsourcing the handling of ethics complaints to neighboring municipalities.

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