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ACC Commission Pass $4.96M Homelessness Plan, Controversy Over Allocation to Salvation Army

Athens Clarke County Government

Athens-Clarke County commissioners voted 6-3 on Tuesday to move ahead with a $4.96 million plan to help address homelessness as temperatures fall.

Most of the plan was non-controversial. Commissioners were broadly supportive of proposals to spend $500,000 to implement a warming shelter plan, as well as some $2.8 million for the development of new programs and just over $1 million to staff and start up the Athens Homeless Coalition.

Some commissioners balked, however, at a proposal to direct $550,000 to the Salvation Army to allow the organization to increase its capacity this winter. A Salvation Army official told commissioners the extra funding would allow the shelter to add 20 additional beds.

District 6 commissioner Jesse Houle was one of the three commissioners voting against the measure. They cited concerns about the process, specifically,” skipping the bidding process [the government] already has and just awarding $550,000 to the Salvation Army for a proposal that’s fairly underdeveloped.”

District 1’s Patrick Davenport, however, noted the urgency of the situation.

“I thought it was a good idea to go ahead and award someone, because they can get people off the streets right now,” Davenport said.

However, it could take 45 days or more for the money to make it to the Salvation Army, other commissioners have warned.

The county’s sanctioned homeless encampment was closed last year, and overnight lows in recent days have been in the 20s.

Some commissioners also expressed concern that the plan was co-authored in part by Commissioner John Culpepper, who serves on the Salvation Army’s board. Culpepper recused himself from the final vote.

Martin Matheny is WUGA's Program Director and a host and producer of our local news program 'Athens News Matters.' He started at WUGA in 2012 as a part-time classical music host and still hosts WUGA's longest-running local program 'Night Music' which is heard on WUGA and GPB Classical. He lives in Normaltown with his wife, Shaye and dog, Murphy.
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