City DopeNews

Athens-Clarke Commission Will Vote on Funding for Airport, Homeless Shelter

Credit: Joshua L. Jones/file

The Athens-Clarke County Commission will vote next month to allocate almost $3 million in funding for homeless organizations, including building a new shelter.

The biggest chunk of the funding—between $1.3 million and $1.5 million for a “low barrier” shelter that will not turn away people for drug or alcohol use alone—will go to Advantage Behavioral Health Services as gap funding for a Mitchell Bridge Road inpatient mental health facility. Along with other local, state and federal grants, the additional funding will allow the $14 million facility to expand to 50 or 60 beds starting in November 2025. Advantage will also receive $200,000 for a crisis response team to rehouse people living in unsanctioned encampments. 

Other funding recommendations include: $163,000 for Athens Area Habitat for Humanity to create two shelter units for families; $200,000 for Divas Who Win to prepare homeless women to re-enter the workforce; $200,000 for Family Promise to assist people who are in danger of becoming homeless before they have to enter a shelter; $142,000 for improvements to Project Safe’s shelter for victims of domestic violence; $184,000 for the Athens Wellness Clinic to provide health care for the homeless; and $400,000 for the Economic Justice Coalition to train homeless individuals to work as certified nursing assistants.

The county received 11 proposals for a total of $6.8 million that were scored by a review committee. That committee recommended fully funding seven proposals and partially funding an eighth.

This funding represents the last of ACC’s share of the federal American Rescue Plan Act that commissioners set aside for homelessness. Previously the commission spent $2.5 million on a since-closed sanctioned homeless camp, $2.5 million on an eviction prevention program, $1 million on a reconstituted Athens Homeless Coalition and $550,000 for improvements at the Salvation Army’s Hawthorne Avenue shelter.

ARPA dollars also went toward starting the ACC police department’s alternative response teams that pair officers with social workers to deal with situations involving mental health. The commission will vote May 7 on spending $155,000 to continue operations through the end of the fiscal year July 1. But Manager Blaine Williams said he will recommend eliminating the $500,000 program in his fiscal 2025 budget proposal. The commission could opt to continue it, but would have to find local funds to replace ARPA.

The commission is also set to approve funding for a new parking lot at Athens-Ben Epps airport in an effort to attract a commercial airline. Athens has not had commercial air service since 2014, when the city lost federal Essential Air Service subsidies due to low daily boardings. ACC officials recently met with several airlines that expressed interest, but said they need an additional 80–90 parking spaces because those airlines use jets that carry 70–120 passengers, rather than the small 7–12 passenger planes used by previous airlines. The local government will cover the $194,000 cost of designing the parking lot. The Georgia Department of Transportation will pay for 75% of construction, with the other 25% coming from local sales taxes.

The post has been updated to clarify information regarding the Advantage Behavioral Health Services shelter.