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Charles Hardy Removed as Director of First Step Homeless Camp

Athens Alliance Coalition Executive Director Charles Hardy. Credit: Isabella Morgan/file

The board of Athens Alliance Coalition has removed Charles Hardy as its executive director and as the director of the First Step homeless camp as of last night, suspending him with pay pending an administrative review by the board. Assistant Director Marcel Mincey and Project Manager Tershant Smith have taken over in the meantime as co-directors of the camp.

This change in leadership comes after Hardy was convicted of misdemeanor battery against a former camp resident. ACC Manager Blaine Williams sent a letter to the Athens Alliance Coalition board on May 3, informing them that they would be in breach of their contract with the local government if they allowed Hardy to remain as camp director after being convicted of a criminal act.

For about a week, Athens Alliance Coalition attempted to negotiate with Williams, asking if Hardy could remain as camp director if he worked remotely, where he would no longer interact with camp residents. This may have been enough to satisfy the local government’s concerns. However, Hardy continued working on camp grounds, ignoring instructions from his own organization’s board.

Brent Temple, the chair of the Athens Alliance Coalition’s board of directors, said that Hardy “continued to show up [to the camp], and he ignored the continuity of operations plan that he agreed to. We made a performance plan that would have moved us back into compliance, but he violated it.”

Hardy has posted on social media that his removal would mean the closing of First Step, but this is not true, according to Temple. The camp will stay open under the leadership of Mincey and Smith on an interim basis under the continuity of operations plan.

“We replaced Charles with these two people, who are well-suited to run the camp,” Temple said. “They will do so under close guidance and in cooperation with the board of directors.” The board will search for and hire a new, permanent executive director.

Both Temple and Williams have said they hope that First Step will continue beyond the Dec. 31 end of the camp’s current contract.

“We have demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that you can serve the most difficult to reach group of homeless individuals there are. If it can be done, and it should be done, it must be done,” Temple said.

Temple also emphasized Hardy’s positive role in the organization over the past year. “None of what we’ve accomplished would have been possible without Charles. We’re grateful to him.”