Atlanta shelter still working to eliminate health hazards

By KAITLYN LEWIS

ATLANTA — The Peachtree-Pine Homeless Shelter still provides care for many of Atlanta’s homeless individuals despite a recent tuberculosis outbreak.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed called for the shelter to close on Aug. 11, 2015 because of health hazards that were brought to light by the CDC. Reed called the shelter a “hub for tuberculosis.” He planned to build a fire station in place of the shelter, which still stands on 477 Peachtree St.

“What everyone in Atlanta knows is Peachtree-Pine has been a source of challenge for the city of Atlanta for 30 years,” Reed told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It destroys and damages that part of the city and the people that live in that part of the city every single day.”

Today, the Peachtree-Pine Homeless Shelter is following TB guidelines. In a letter sent to the Executive Directior, Anita Beaty, from the Fulton County Health Department on July 24, 2015, government officials confirmed that Beaty had properly implemented all 14 of the CDC-recommended administrative controls prior to Reed’s statement.

Part of the administrative controls includes spreading TB awareness, screening and referring infected individuals to proper treatment. The staff at the Peachtree-Pine Homeless Shelter has put up TB posters all over their facility.

In an email, Beaty said the screening process is detailed, and she has not been able to fully explain it at time of this publication. She said she wants to follow up with more information later.

Nitish Sood, a student from Alpharetta High School who co-founded a nonprofit organization for the homeless called Working Together For Change, said that it is important to focus on prevention rather than care when it comes to diseases spread in homeless communities.

“I’m not too aware on the political situation going on behind this, but I do think that one of the most important things now should also be focused on preventing future cases,” Sood said. “Because now we know the certain genotype of tuberculosis that’s being spread, and now we know also because how long we have been combating tuberculosis, we can effectively cure and treat it, but it’s just a matter of spreading that right now.”

In his Atlanta-based organization, Sood has three pillars that he focuses on: immersion, social entrepreneurship and medical. He visits different schools to spread awareness and educate students on homelessness. Working Together For Change has also educated some homeless individuals on medical risks.

“So we try to contact doctors and nurses and organizations around the city, and try to get their specialists to speak at our events,” Sood said. “Cardiovascular disease, or mental health or even diabetes—we try to get to speak to large groups of homeless people.”

In a recent medical event held on Sept. 19, impacted around 100 homeless people, Sood said.

“A large part of homelessness is medical bills,” Sood said. He added that many people become homeless as a result of overwhelming medical bills they were not able to pay.

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