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In this 2017 photo, a young ballerina observes a man sleeping on a bench in Marietta Square.

What can Marietta do about homeless people shipped in from other states?

That was the question for the City Council on Tuesday night after Councilwoman Michelle Cooper Kelly called for a discussion of New York City’s “Special One-Time Assistance” program and others like it.

Under SOTA, New York has sent 5,074 homeless families or 12,482 individuals to 32 states and Puerto Rico since August of 2017, according to an investigation in the New York Post.

“I think the city of Marietta and Cobb County does a great job taking care of our own homeless folks,” Kelly said. “We’ve got some great agencies with MUST Ministries, we’ve got some other wraparound services to try to provide veterans services, mental services, things that people need to get themselves back on their feet, but being able to take on the plight of other states, I just don’t think Marietta is equipped to do so.”

According to the website for the New York City Human Resources Administration, the program is available to adults and families who have been staying in a shelter for at least 90 days and who have enough income to make future rent payments based on rent not exceeding 50% of their income. Those eligible can receive a full year’s rent to move within New York City, to other locations in New York, to another state or to Puerto Rico or Washington.

Kelly and others said they are concerned an influx of new homeless residents could overwhelm local groups such as MUST Ministries.

A MUST spokesperson told the MDJ they have not seen a flood of out-of-towners applying for space in their shelter. Lack of room has long been an issue for MUST, and the nonprofit has plans for a new shelter, but the nonprofit said 80% of those who stayed in their Elizabeth Inn shelter last year were from Cobb.

According to data linked by the Post, one household has been relocated to Marietta, one to Kennesaw and two to Smyrna. Another 13 have moved to Atlanta.

Kelly said because the recipients receive a full year’s rent, they may go undetected until that money runs out in the 13th month.

Mayor Steve Tumlin said he thinks that is by design.

“I can’t help but think they’re being smart. They give people time to get on our welfare roll, so to speak. I don’t think they’re doing it to help them, they want to make sure they can have medical benefits. … If they’re here for a year and they become residents of the state, it gets them off the New York supplemental health care.”

Kelly said Newark, New Jersey, has received the most new residents from the program, and recently passed a housing ordinance regarding how landlords treat homeless populations.

She asked City Attorney Doug Haynie if there is anything the city can do about the issue.

Haynie said he will meet with City Manager Bill Bruton and Development Services Director Rusty Roth to discuss possible solutions.

“I looked at the New York website today, and they said their purpose is to take care of the citizens of New York and the citizens in their community. What is happening does not seem consistent with what is on the website. I think what you do is let us bring something back to you either on the December (Judicial and Legislative Committee meeting) or January, but this is not going to be what I call a quick fix,” Haynie said.

Councilwoman Cheryl Richardson said she agrees other governments should not be able to export residents without at least notifying the receiving governments, but she is not confident the city has the authority to stop them.

“My concern is that with the constitutional guarantees of being able to move freely, stopping this is going to be impossible. I also think that what we might find … is that it’s going to take the federal government to put a program in place because we can’t direct the state of New York to tell us anything, nor will they. … I don’t know that we as a city have the wherewithal to tell the state of New York or the city of New York, ‘if you send them here, you’d better tell us first.’ I think they’re going to say ‘Yeah, OK, that letter is in the mail.”


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(6) comments

Culver Johnson

In this country people still have the right to travel when and where they desire. However, the individual should not expect others to pay for it.

Johanna Williams

Who is the guy that hangs out in Glover Park seven days a week and continually harasses people for money? He appeared about a year ago and can be seen every day bothering people in and around the square for money? He has a full beard, appears to be in his 60s, pushes a walker around that I doubt he really needs, African-American, is well groomed with clean clothes and appears to be in excellent health. His clothes are clean, his beard is perfectly trimmed, shoes are new, teeth in excellent condition, and appears well fed, so I highly doubt he is the homeless person he claims to be. He always tells the same two or three stories about how he is homeless and needs cash. He gets very loud sometimes, and in rare instances, I have seen him get angry at some people and run after them, leaving his walker behind.

Allen Williams

NY version of social justice........such hypocrites!

Rich the Equalizer Pellegrino

Really Allen...read my reply and tell me who are the hypocrites!

Rich the Equalizer Pellegrino

These concerns are hilarious and I have an answer for Marietta and just about every other southern city and county---suck it up. It wasn't long ago during Jim Crow (in my lifetime) that we forced our people of color to migrate north to NY and other locations in order to have some degree of freedom and rights.(And we didn't provide any assistance at all--in fact, we robbed them of what little they had.) And more recently, it is common knowledge that we have exported our homeless to Atlanta and Fulton County due to inadequate services and beds here in our shelters--and we still do. Again, without any assistance at all--not even a bus ticket. How soon we forget and how dare we criticize a city which at least is doing something to help---let's join Mike Boyce's initiatives to end homelessness in Cobb and provide affordable housing here rather than waste time and energy on a non-issue like this.

Johanna Williams

@Richie The Spoiler

Mornin' Ritchie, up at 3 a.m. spoiling Thanksgiving? I see, as usual, you are big on whining and complaining but still suffering from a deficit of facts and substance. Gosh Ritchie, open your eyes and look around, Cobb citizens are some of the most generous people around. Jim Crow days? Now you are into nothing but the false narrative of liberal radical far left extremism. Me thinks you enjoy wallowing in sorrow Ritchie. Moreover, without something imaginary to complain about, there would be no need for far left liberalism. Look around Ritchie, our president is Making America Great Again, for ALL Americans. Hypocrisy? That is the middle name of the Democrat party, the party that insists on spreading misery around equally. Enjoy your dinner today, Ritchie, and keep working on that spoiler stuff, it looks good on your job application for Chief Diversity Officer.

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