The Buckhead Business Association (BBA) and the Buckhead Coalition have joined forces to provide a Street Ministry Program to address the needs of the homeless population in Buckhead.

The 33 Buckhead area houses of worship will be called upon to fund the service, which will be underwritten by the Buckhead Coalition.

The program has been instituted in response to a perceived increase in homelessness in the community, due in part to enforcement of “quality of life” ordinances in downtown Atlanta, increased population density and general economic and health stresses.

“A result can be an increase in crime and devaluation of property,” explained Buckhead Coalition President Sam Massell. “But, equally important is the scarcity of public assistance here for those in need, such as medical clinics, shelter, soup kitchens, job counselors, etc.”

Massell said, “The Buckhead Christian Ministry, the (AA/DA) Triangle Club and some of the churches do provide very valuable in-house services, but do not have the staff with the initiative to reduce the numbers.” He said downtown Atlanta does have numerous service centers.

The Reverend Bert Smith, an ordained deacon in the Episcopal Diocese, has been retained to operate the initiative. Smith has a bachelors degree in history and education from Morehouse University and a masters in management from the University of Miami. He is experienced in dealing with the homeless issue and resides on East Paces Ferry Road in Buckhead.

Smith will inventory the magnitude of the homeless situation in Buckhead and provide guidance for dealing with situation. The program will be managed by the BBA and its Executive Director Sharon Silva.

–John Schaffner