Marietta Denies Zoning Request To Build A New Homeless Shelter

In this Aug. 7, 2017 photo, homeless men stand on a sidewalk in Atlanta weeks before the largest overflow homeless shelter in the city is scheduled to close. The latest counts found 3,572 homeless people in Atlanta, including 1,567 in emergency shelters, 1,324 in transitional housing and 681 without any shelter. Ten percent _ roughly … Continued

Robert Ray / Associated Press

Audio version of this story here.

Marietta’s Zoning Board of Appeals has denied a nonprofit group’s request to build a new, larger homeless shelter at 1260 Cobb Parkway, which is about a mile from Elizabeth Inn, the group’s current shelter.

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MUST Ministries needed a zoning variance to build the proposed shelter because it would have been too close to neighborhoods. City ordinance requires homeless shelters to be more than 750 feet from residentially zoned areas.

A petition with more than 200 signatures in opposition of the variance was given to the board at last night’s meeting. Marietta residents aren’t against MUST building a bigger shelter. They say it’s the homeless people outside the shelter who use the nonprofit’s day services who cause the problem.

“We’ve had people that have walked across our sidewalk literally in front of the building and passed out in the street in front of the business and cars were having to swerve around them,” said Craig Lewis, who owns a business nearby. He was one of more than 100 people at last night’s meeting.

Others said their cars have been stolen, tents have been pitched on their private property, and one woman said her niece was no longer allowed to visit because a homeless man exposed himself to her.

Lewis said a new shelter isn’t the problem. But people are worried if a bigger shelter is built it will exacerbate the issue of homeless living outside of the shelter. The online petition said 911 was called 394 times at MUST’s Elizabeth Inn in the past year.

CEO of MUST Ike Reighard said the community’s concerns are valid.

“Somebody coming up in your backyard, somebody just pitching a tent – I can’t defend that,” he said. “I wouldn’t defend that. That is indefensible when your family feels unsafe.”

Reighard said MUST will go back to the drawing board to look at other options. He said the nonprofit learned a lot from the meeting to take back to the table.