AP NEWS

Proposed Mableton homeless center plans going to county commissioners’ hands

May 19, 2019

Despite a narrow recommendation for denial handed down on a proposed homeless development center and shelter in Mableton, plans for the facility remain the same as they were presented to the Cobb Planning Commission earlier this month.

On Tuesday, county commissioners are set to consider Mableton-based Family Life Restoration Center’s application to rezone a 1.6-acre site at 6328 Mableton Parkway, south of Mableton Parkway’s intersection with Factory Shoals Road, to allow for a collaborative program with Georgia Works to help “chronically homeless men” return to the workforce. The rezoning request was first heard last month but initially tabled by the Planning Commission over unanswered questions over the project, such as security measures to keep neighbors safe.

Georgia Works’ goal, according to its website, is to help “chronically homeless men” by providing a full-time job and permanent housing for each participant. “Men who enter the program are typically dependent on drugs and handouts; when they graduate, the goal is to never be dependent again,” according to the site. If approved, the shelter would be Georgia Works’ first within Cobb County.

Attorney Kevin Moore, who is representing Family Life Restoration Center, said no changes have been made to the plans since the May 7 Planning Commission meeting, adding that he expects the same level of support and opposition at Tuesday’s meeting as seen previously.

“We believe in the program and we believe in the service it provides to the community, and we hope that it will find better favor with the Board of Commissioners,” Moore said.

County commissioners have the final say on Family Life Restoration Center’s application, which was recommended for denial by the Cobb Planning Commission by a 3-2 vote. The planning commission’s vote is only advisory in nature.

Among the Planning Commissioners who voted against the facility was Fred Beloin, who cited a community member’s comparison of the proposed program to Kennesaw-based Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Georgia, which treats youth who are suffering from emotional and/or behavioral challenges.

“Many of these facilities that are run by Devereux have had escapees commit violent crimes against people who live nearby,” Beloin said, citing separate incidents in Pennsylvania where a man was shot and killed by an escapee and another where a woman had been locked in a closet without food or water for four days.

“What assurances can you give us that nobody will leave this facility in the middle of the night and commit a violent crime against one of these immediate neighbors?” Beloin asked Moore during the May 7 meeting.

Responded Moore, “There is no assurance, any more than somebody who leaves this building right now goes and commits a violent crime that we’re aware of, but what there is are assurances that type of history won’t be allowed in this program.”

Though the Mableton Improvement Coalition last month urged planning commissioners to approve the application but with many conditions, Robin Meyer, MIC’s zoning committee chairwoman, said it had since voted to take a neutral position. MIC is a membership-based, volunteer civic association focused on the area.

Meyer spoke at the Planning Commission meeting earlier this month, but in a May 15 letter to the Cobb Board of Commissioners elaborated on MIC’s position.

“We cannot find a way to advocate for (the) entire community — which includes residents, both those fortunate enough to have homes and the homeless, and the Family Life Restoration Center, which is also a vital part of our community,” Meyer wrote.

Among the concerns Meyer shared in the letter were the Georgia Works program’s high dropout rate, which may see participants in the program remain in the community and increase the area’s homeless population.

Cobb commissioners are expected to take up the matter and could punch in votes on the proposal during their meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the Cobb Government Building.

All contents © copyright 2019 The Associated Press.All rights reserved.