Atlanta Mayor Uses TB Outbreak as False Pretext To Attack Homeless Shelter

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task force(APN) ATLANTA — The Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless is once again under attack by the City of Atlanta.

 

On Tuesday, August 11, 2015, Mayor Kasim Reed announced his intentions to take over the shelter, known colloquially at “Peachtree-Pine,” through eminent domain.  The Mayor said he would demolish the building and construct a new shelter to house 300 to 400 people, presumably elsewhere; along with a new police station and fire station on the spot.

 

The Atlanta Business Chronicle reported the Mayor justified his claim by saying that “Peachtree and Pine is one of the leading sites for tuberculosis in the nation,” and that tuberculosis (TB) cases across the nation are “being traced back to Peachtree and Pine.”

 

According to the report, the Mayor claimed he met with a Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director who made these assertions.

 

Atlanta Progressive News reached out to the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH), which confirmed that it had requested the CDC investigate when there was a spike in the number of drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) cases reported from homeless shelters in Fulton County in 2013.

 

The investigation showed that a strain of TB first discovered in a patient residing at Peachtree and Pine in 2008, has now spread to eight other U.S. states.

 

Data shows that overall, the prevalence of TB in the United States has declined dramatically since 1992.  Within the homeless population, though, there is a surge.

 

“Based on the results of the investigation, CDC recommended steps to stop transmission: TB testing, treatment, implementing a TB control plan for people experiencing homelessness, and ongoing monitoring,” Brian Katzowitz, a CDC spokesperson, told APN in an email.

 

Based on these recommendations, the Mayor’s proposal to shut down the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless arguably constitutes a public health threat, as the shelter is an important site for monitoring TB patients.

 

That’s according to an assessment conducted in July by Fulton County Department of Health and Wellness.

 

“The Health Department is pleased that your shelter facility has been able to fully implement 14/14 of the CDC recommended administrative controls,” a county medical director wrote to Anita Beaty, the shelter’s director, in a letter dated July 24, 2015, obtained by APN.

 

The shelter requires all clients to present verification of TB testing; screens for symptoms; and even keeps a “cough log,” among other precautionary measures.

 

DPH and the CDC both declined to comment on whether shutting down the shelter would in fact exacerbate the TB outbreak.

 

Nancy Nydam, a DPH spokesperson, did say that TB outbreaks tend to happen in spaces where at-risk populations are in close quarters.  This includes homeless shelters, nursing homes, and prisons, she said.

 

The Mayor is not, however, considering shutting down any prisons or nursing homes.

 

Given the City’s history of animosity toward the shelter, it appears the Mayor is using the TB outbreak, as a pretext to further the interests of the downtown business community.

 

Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless is currently suing Central Atlanta Progress, the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District, Emory University, and others for conspiring to undermine the shelter’s financial stability by convincing funders to discontinue their support.

 

As previously reported by APN, the City of Atlanta was involved in the conspiracy, records show, but a federal court ruled they were immune from liability due to sovereign immunity.

 

(END/2015)

8 comments

  • This isn’t a very well written article, if anything it’s written with quite a bit of bias, sad.

  • The Atlanta Way

  • Robert Wohlhueter

    Biased reporting? No, it reveals a variety of facts that the Mayor’s bully-pulpit and the gentrification forces at Central Atlanta Progress would rather see suppressed.

  • No. This is pretty poorly written. It also excludes the fact that shelter has been mismanaged for years and isn’t paying it’s bills to the city. There are numerous shelters in the city. Everyone will be happy when this place gets cleaned up.

    • I see no evidence of mismanagement. As APN has reported, the Task Force has been the victim of a well-documented, tortious conspiracy to deprive it of funds, so it is difficult to blame the shelter for its current conditions. It has paid its bills, but the previous delinquencies were again tied to the tortious interference with private business relationships. Finally, there are other shelters, but none that serve this many and the Task Force serves many people that other agencies won’t serve.

  • Team Obama’s fight to keep the homeless living on the streets
    By Betsy McCaugheyAugust 18, 2015 | 8:07pm
    Modal Trigger
    “Team Obama’s fight to keep the homeless living on the streets”

    By Betsy McCaughey August 18, 2015 | 8:07pm

    America’s homeless are lawyering up to fight for a “right” to live on the street — your neighborhood and personal safety be damned.

    From Fort Lauderdale to Los Angeles, cities are struggling with a surge in people living in cardboard boxes and doorways. Local lawmakers are trying to ban “camping out” in public, and ordering police to clear the fetid encampments.

    But lawyers for the homeless are pushing back. They’re demanding that “sleeping rough” be legally protected. In Denver, where living on the street is outlawed, lawyers for the homeless want to guarantee vagrants “the right to use and move freely in public spaces without discrimination.”

    Outrageously, the Obama administration is siding with vagrants against local governments. Obama’s Justice Department is trying to block Boise, Idaho’s ban on sleeping in public. Cities around the country are worried their own laws may be next.

    Not New York, of course. In our city, lawyers for the homeless already run City Hall. One of Mayor De Blasio’s top advisers is Steven Banks, a lawyer who spent three decades at the Legal Aid Society and has sued the city numerous times on behalf of the homeless.

    Under de Blasio’s tenure, 311 calls complaining about the homeless are up nearly 60 percent. The mayor dismisses that as “hysteria,” insisting the vast majority of homeless “don’t bother anybody.”
    Los Angeles — the homeless capital of the nation — is trying to halt the spread of cardboard shanties: Obamavilles. But the city has lost a string of lawsuits, as judges ruled the homeless have constitutional rights to sleep in cars and store their possessions on the sidewalk.

    Los Angeles is short on shelter beds, but beds alone don’t solve the problem. In New York, homeless families generally go to shelters. But 80 percent of vagrants are single adults with mental illness or drug addiction. Their insistence on street living punishes the rest of us. We have to endure the heart-wrenching sights of human beings in rags lying on sidewalks.

    Jail may not be the answer, but allowing street living isn’t, either. There has to be an involuntary mental-health alternative. De Blasio is sending treatment teams to the streets for individualized care. But it’s voluntary. Many will reject help. The city should also get vagrants off the street. That is, if the feds allow it.
    Boise is trying to ban street encampments it deems unsanitary and unsafe. But on Aug. 6, the Obama Justice Department intervened to stop the city. The DOJ argues that depriving people of a “right” to sleep on the street if there are no shelter beds is a “cruel and unusual punishment,” violating the Constitution. Not enough beds? The city insists there are.

    The DOJ’s intervention is a warning to cities everywhere. Homeless advocate Carol Sobel warns that cities must “figure out how to respond to the causes of homelessness and not punish people for their status.” That’s the wacky ideology cities will be battling in lawsuit after lawsuit — that living on the street is acceptable and deserves legal protection.

    Sadly, that’s the prevailing mentality in the de Blasio administration as well. Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani considered homeless encampments a scourge. But de Blasio says “it’s not against the law to be homeless.” His emphasis is on serving the homeless, increasing funding for “homeless services” by $1 billion. Not protecting the public.

    Never mind the violent crimes committed by mentally ill street dwellers. On June 23, a woman was attacked by a machete-waving vagrant in Bryant Park; on July 25, a tourist was hospitalized after being assaulted by a homeless man; Police Commissioner Bill Bratton is warning that street dwellers are using a synthetic marijuana that makes them “irrational, impervious to pain, and very dangerous.”

    De Blasio blames “inequality” for the danger and disturbing sights on our streets. Wrong. It’s progressive ideology at work.

    http://nypost.com/2015/08/18/team-obamas-fight-to-keep-the-homeless-living-on-the-streets/

    • Politifact Assessment – We rate Mayor Reed’s statement Mostly True…

      TB real concern at Atlanta homeless shelter

      By Nancy Badertscher on Wednesday, August 19th, 2015 at 12:00 a.m.

      Pine Street Homeless Shelter in Atlanta Thursday October 8, 2009. Brant Sanderlin, bsanderlin@ajc.com
      The Peachtree-Pine homeless shelter just south of Midtown Atlanta. AJC file photo by Brant Sanderlin
      Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has made no secret of wanting to close the homeless shelter at Peachtree and Pine streets.

      Reed, who has been active in downtown’s post-Recession resurgence, says he’ll push for the city to acquire the property through eminent domain and turn it into a police precinct and fire station.

      Health concerns are a major reason for closing the Peachtree-Pines shelter, Reed said during a lunchtime speech to Atlanta’s Commerce Club on Tuesday, Aug. 11.

      “Peachtree and Pine is one of the leading sites for tuberculosis in the nation,” he told the crowd.

      Reed said top officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently asked to meet with him and “laid out how tuberculosis cases, not in Georgia, but across America, are being traced back to Peachtree and Pine.”

      Could Peachtree-Pine, billed as the largest homeless shelter in the Southeast, be a leading site for tuberculosis in the nation? PolitiFact decided to do some checking.

      First a little background.

      The homeless are prime candidates for tuberculosis because they typically have greater exposure to cold weather, are in crowded conditions when they stay in shelters and lack proper nutrition and medical care.

      That means shelters, such as Peachtree-Pine, have to be vigilant to avoid becoming breeding grounds for TB, which is spread person to person through the air and caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

      TB normally attacks the lungs, but also can strike the kidney, spine, brain or another body part. In most cases, tuberculosis is treatable and curable, although people can die if they don’t receive the proper treatment. Most people live with the bacteria, or latent TB infection, without feeling sick or showing symptoms.

      In 2014, 9,412 new tuberculosis cases were reported in the U.S., 334 in Georgia, according to the CDC.

      A new drug-resistant strain of TB was discovered in 2008 at the shelter at Peachtree and Pine, which is run by the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless. The strain was labeled G05625 TB by the CDC.

      The research

      To fact check Reed’s statement, we reached out to Fulton County government, the CDC, the mayor’s office and the Georgia Department of Public Health, as well as shelter management. Anita Beaty, Peachtree-Pine’s executive director, rejects Reed’s assessment of the shelter and says it is “100 percent compliant” with CDC protocol for spotting, treating and avoiding the spread of TB. She said Reed and the business community have conspired for years to force the shelter to close so they can take over its prime location, just south of Midtown and in sight of the Fox Theatre.

      Tuberculosis has been a worry at all Atlanta and Fulton County shelters, not just Peachtree-Pine, for years. But alarm bells apparently really started going off after an uptick in TB cases last year.

      “At a time when the incidents of tuberculosis has been declining across the metropolitan Atlanta area and the rest of Georgia, it has actually increased in Fulton County,” Brenda Fitzgerald, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, wrote Fulton County Commission Chair John Eaves in April.

      A month later, officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were sitting down for the first of two meetings with Reed about the ongoing TB problem generally, and Peachtree-Pine specifically. “Our inability to control (the Peachtree-Pine) outbreak has led to infections in multiple other states,” Philip A. LoBue and Jonathan Mermin, doctors with the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, wrote Reed after they met in May.

      Based on interviews, data and documents that PolitiFact reviewed, here’s a summary of the major points.

      — Since 2008, new cases of the drug-resistant strain of TB that originated at the Peachtree-Pine shelter have turned up in metro Atlanta and Georgia as well as eight other states — Alabama, California, Florida, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and South Carolina. (Genotype evidence, similar to a fingerprint, exists for every strain of TB, and that’s how every new case of G05625 in the state and nation can be traced to the Peachtree-Pine shelter. Similarly, that’s how the Ebola outbreak in west Africa in 201, was traced back to a 2-year-old from a small village in Guinea who died in 2013 and who became known around the world as Patient Zero.)

      — At Fulton County’s four shelters, the number of TB cases rose by 230 percent, from 13 in 2013 to 43 in 2014. Twenty-two of the 43 cases, or slightly more than 50 percent, were at Peachtree-Pine. (The CDC defines a large outbreak as being 10 or more cases, CDC spokesman Brian Katzowitz said.)

      — The number of drug-resistant G05625 tuberculosis cases, those linked to Peachtree-Pine, grew 10-fold from 2013 to 2014, from two to 23.

      — Fulton County accounted for 82 percent of all cases of that strain of tuberculosis in Georgia and 69 percent of all cases of the strain in the United States.

      — At least four clients of the Peachtree-Pine shelter, according to Fitzgerald, have died of tuberculosis since early 2014.

      In her letter to Eaves, Fitzgerald said, public health researchers identified the homeless shelter at the corner of Peachtree and Pine Streets “as a major source of the current outbreak.

      “If it [tuberculosis] gains a foothold in the community, then the cost in healthcare and human suffering will be incalculable,” she wrote.

      Jessica A. Corbitt-Dominguez, director of external affairs for Fulton County government, said Fulton health workers, in conjunction with officials from the Georgia Department of Public Health and CDC, responded to the outbreak with an aggressive campaign of education, testing and treatment. Anyone with active disease was relocated from the shelters while in treatment under the supervision of Fulton Health and Wellness.

      The county set up special teams that make daily visits to shelters to perform screenings and administer medicines, Corbitt-Dominguez said.

      In June 2015, the county health department also signed memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with four shelters, including Peachtree and Pine. This was considered a significant step since a lack of administrative controls and protocols is considered a likely contributor to the spread of TB. As of this month, the number of 2015 confirmed TB cases at Fulton homeless shelters is 13, Corbitt-Dominguez said.

      Beaty’s attorney last week provided reporters with a certificate showing the shelter is fully in compliance with the CDC’s TB protocol, and Beaty told PolitiFact “it’s ludicrous to think we wouldn’t be on it.”

      Corbitt-Dominguez confirmed that the shelter has never been cited by the county, although Eaves has said there have been concerns about the shelter’s TB safeguards.

      In a letter to Fitzgerald, he wrote that the shelter’s administration “routinely exhibits sub-optimal administration of the procedures required to control the spread of this disease.”

      Beaty said Reed’s statement makes clear he “is just not getting good information.”

      “We have been cleared by Fulton County, which is on site every day to monitor. And we’ve got 100 percent clearance from the CDC’s requirements,” she said. “We resent those easy headlines that have no basis in fact and that marginalize homeless people in our facilities.”

      Tom Andrews, president of the non-profit Mercy Care, which operates 14 clinics, some associated with shelters, said the strain of TB originating at Peachtree-Pine has to be a major concern. Since it is medicine-resistant, it requires a more expensive and longer treatment program, Andrews said.

      The CDC estimates that the costs of treating a person with TB increases with greater resistance. Direct costs in 2010 U.S. dollars average from $17,000 to treat drug-susceptible TB to $430,000 to treat the most drug-resistant form, according to the agency’s website.

      So is it a national leader in TB?

      We asked the mayor’s office for evidence to back up Reed’s statement that Peachtree-Pine “is one of the leading sites for tuberculosis in the nation.” Anne Torres, his spokeswoman, provided us copies of the letters from Fitzgerald and the doctors, as well as a highly technical report from the CDC.

      We reached out to the CDC. A spokesperson said agency officials would not comment on the mayor’s public statements.

      CDC officials also would not identify the states where they said the TB strain from Peachtree-Pine had spread. We were able to obtain that list from the Georgia Department of Public Health, as well as the number of cases of G05625 strain TB in each state from 2008 to 2014.

      The most were in Florida (14), followed by California (8) and North Carolina and Alabama (2 each). New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania and South Carolina each reported one case in the five years — for a total of 30 in the eight states in five years.

      But do 30 cases over a several-year period raise Peachtree-Pine to a leading site of TB in the nation?

      We posed that question to Philip Hopewell, a leading tuberculosis expert and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

      “Peachtree and Pine is clearly a major site for transmission of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and it may be one of the leading sites in the nation,” Hopewell said.

      “However, there are not data from every such facility in the country,” he added. “To say that the Atlanta facility is one of the leading sites in the country — it probably is — implies that there are data with which to compare the Atlanta facility. Thus, strictly speaking, what he said can’t be backed with evidence. Even so, I wouldn’t fault the mayor for saying this.”

      Our ruling

      Mayor Kasim Reed said “Peachtree and Pine is one of the leading sites for tuberculosis in the nation.” Thirty cases of a medicine-resistant strain of TB in eight states have been traced back to the shelter at Peachtree and Pine. The shelter also had a large share of the cases in a recent TB outbreak in Fulton County and four TB deaths, according to state data.

      CDC officials clearly believe it’s a concern, but a leading tuberculosis expert says there’s a dearth of comparative data.

      We rate Reed’s statement Mostly True.

      http://www.politifact.com/georgia/statements/2015/aug/19/kasim-reed/tb-real-concern-controversial-atlanta-shelter/

  • Yet, Atlanta s mayor says he has spoken with the CDC and state health officials and believes it s best to close the shelter. The mayor said this week, I m going to use the full weight of my office and all my authority to close and condemn that property.

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