Open Door Community, a Space for Homeless Advocacy, Closing in January 2017
(APN) ATLANTA — The Open Door Community at 910 Ponce de Leon Avenue, a home and community space that has served Atlanta’s homeless community and many others in Atlanta’s Midtown neighborhood for 35 years, will close its doors some time in January 2017.
The Catholic Worker-led Open Door Community has provided breakfast, lunch, showers, free medical clinic, worship services, a prison ministry, a newspaper, and advocated on behalf of the oppressed homeless and prison populations.
Over the years, many lives have been transformed there.
Empowerment of residents to self-advocate and be part of the democratic process, especially in Atlanta policy debates around homelessness and housing, has been a key component of their work.
For example, Open Door and the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless were at the forefront of advocacy against the anti-homeless activities of the City of Atlanta around the time of the Olympics.
For many years, the Open Door held an annual Festival of Shelters in Woodruff Park.
With the Open Door closing, and the Task Force on the ropes, there will be a huge gap in participation of homeless people in advocacy and policy discussions in Atlanta.
The name “Open Door” was appropriate, as they served anyone who wanted to share in their community – but not only homeless people visited Open Door. For example, activists in the community who were housed would share in meals at Open Door.
The late Adam Shapiro of WRFG 89.3 FM radio, who lived at a high rise down the street and who was blind, would eat many meals at Open Door, for example.
Rev. Eduard Loring, co-founder of Open Door Community, sat down to pray, eat, and talk with Atlanta Progressive News about homelessness, poverty, racism, prisons, White supremacy, and the Atlanta power structure.
“We never thought we would leave, we thought we would die at the Open Door. We are leaving only because we could not get young people to take it over,” Loring told APN..
Loring and his wife Rev. Murphy Davis, who is also a co-founder, will move to Baltimore, Maryland, where their daughter lives. At least two, maybe three residents, will move to Baltimore with them.
The other long-term leaders at the Open Door will move to live closer to family in different states.
The Open Door has secured new locations and resources for all remaining residents.
The building is half owned by the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta, which plans to sell the building.
“We will continue our death row work and our Hardwick prison trip in Georgia. In Baltimore, we will continue our Hospitality newsletter,” Loring said.
Loring has advocated to dismantle racism, sexism, and homophobia to abolish the death penalty; and for the State of Georgia to expand Medicaid.
THE ROLE OF GENTRIFICATION
Especially with the advent of the Atlanta Beltline and the sale of City Hall East for the creation of Ponce City Market, the Old Fourth Ward and neighborhood around Ponce de Leon is becoming quickly very gentrified.
It has become an inhospitable space for the homeless poor, Loring said, as suburbanites return to the City they once fled from.
“This was a great neighborhood until rich people moved in and ruined it,” Loring said.
Once the Open Door is gone, any ministry for homeless people left in the area will be rooted in White privilege that requires poor people to leave their terrain and move.
That type of ministry has nothing to do with “political liberation, empowerment or respecting poor people….it is a worthless ministry which comes out of most of the evangelical churches and even some liberal churches,” Loring said.
APN has reported at length on the conspiracy between the City of Atlanta, Central Atlanta Progress, Atlanta Downtown Improvement District, and others to remove homeless people from Peachtree Street.
The movement to rid Atlanta of poor and homeless people has been going on for a long time spanning many years and several Mayoral administrations.
In the past, there was enough resistance and political power to slow it down like when homeless people occupied the abandoned Imperial Hotel in 1990. This dramatic episode in Atlanta’s history is chronicled in Terry Easton’s book, “Raising Our Voices, Breaking the Chain – The Imperial Hotel Occupation as Prophetic Politics.”
As Atlanta’s long time advocates for the homeless are getting older and without new blood to take over the downtown shelters, Atlanta’s most powerless and voiceless populations are left at the mercy of greedy real estate, business, and political vultures.
Anita Beaty is now in her seventies.
Loring criticized Atlanta’s Black Mayors as “minions who get green money that White people allow them to get so they, in turn, devour the poor… by running them out of the City.”
“This is one of the most segregated cities in the nation and the Atlanta Way continues to work,” Loring goes on to say.
Even today in Atlanta, Blacks mainly live South of I-20 and White mainly live North of that dividing line.
Loring explained that the “Atlanta Way” means a way of undercutting Black dissent behind closed doors and projecting an image of Atlanta as the cradle of the Civil Rights Movement with smooth race relations to the extent that it is good for business and tourism.
The push to make Atlanta whiter and richer is evident in the unmitigated development of more luxury apartments, condominiums, and homes going up that lower middle class and working class people cannot afford.
“The most effective way to organize people to gain political power is through fear. What we have going on in this culture is fear of the poor and homeless,” Loring said.
In Atlanta, hundreds of thousands of poor people are arrested for asking for help, sleeping outside, urinating in public space, jaywalking, and other so-called “Quality of Life” violations.
As APN has reported, the mass incarceration of poor, homeless, addicted, mentally ill, and disenfranchised minorities greatly benefits corporations who can exploit cheap and/or free labor in the prison industrial complex.
Political fear propaganda “is one of the ways we can keep killing Black people, keep telling poor people they are worthless, and keep people working for minimum wages or less,” Loring said
Meanwhile, the City is pursuing eminent domain legislation against the Task Force, claiming they need a public safety facility for the location, although admitting to APN that they completed no study regarding this alleged need, even though legislation by Kwanza Hall (District 2) had required such a study.
But the City has no plan to shelter the hundreds of homeless people who would be displaced if the Task Force would to close at that location.