In response to customer concerns about unsheltered individuals taking refuge on the transit system, MARTA is launching a year-long pilot program with HOPE Atlanta, a non-profit organization that offers housing, social services, substance abuse counseling, and employment to those who need it.
The MARTA HOPE Team initiative begins this month as a humane and tactical approach to a national issue that has grown increasingly acute since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and is compounded by the shortage of affordable housing options in major metropolitan areas, including Atlanta.
The new project will pair two experienced HOPE Atlanta case managers with trained Field Protective Specialists under the auspices of the MARTA Police Department. Working daily, the outreach teams will actively engage unsheltered individuals they encounter on MARTA property including on trains and buses, and at rail stations and bus shelters.
“As we continue providing safe and reliable transportation for our customers, we know there are people on our system only because they may have nowhere else to go,” said MARTA GM/CEO Jeffrey Parker. “We won’t tolerate criminal behavior, but being homeless is not a crime. We are committed to finding solutions that safeguard customers and employees while treating everyone with dignity and respect.”
The teams will also coordinate their efforts with organizations focused on the region’s unsheltered population including the Gateway Center, Partners for Home, and the Regional Commission on Homelessness, funded by the United Way of Greater Atlanta, as well as MARTA’s jurisdictional partners in the City of Atlanta, Fulton, DeKalb and Clayton counties.