Jan 29, 2024 - News

Shipping container homes open in South Downtown

A room inside The Melody, which provides permanent housing for homeless people.

A room in The Melody, the city of Atlanta's first rapid housing initiative, in South Downtown. Photo: Kristal Dixon/Axios

The city of Atlanta is celebrating the opening of its first rapid housing initiative that will provide unhoused people with a permanent place to live.

Why it matters: The project, called The Melody, is a "major milestone" towards Mayor Andre Dickens' goal of adding 20,000 affordable housing units in Atlanta by 2030, he said during a ribbon-cutting event last Friday.

Details: The Melody features 40 converted shipping containers on city-owned property at 184 Forsyth Street SW near the Garnett MARTA Station in South Downtown.

  • Each contains a bed, bathroom, and kitchenette "to allow for privacy and independent living," Dickens said.
  • Residents will also have access to community amenities and support services.

Catch up quick: In August, the mayor signed an executive order to allocate $4 million towards the purchase of the containers from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency.

What they're saying: "We wanted to be as thoughtful and as intentional as possible in creating a safe and dignified community where residents can thrive and find pathways out of homelessness," Dickens said.

  • He added that Atlanta has identified another city-owned site adjacent to its water reservoir on Northside Drive as another place where it can install similar "quick delivery units."
  • "We're not playing, y'all. We're not slowing down. We'll keep moving forward."

Of note: The project is named after Melody Bloodworth, an Atlanta woman who for years was unhoused and suffered from mental illnesses. She froze to death in November 2022, The Atlanta Objective with George Chidi reported.

Photo of a room at The Melody
A room at The Melody includes a bed, bathroom, and kitchenette. Credit: Kristal Dixon/Axios

Cathryn Vassell, CEO of Partners for HOME, which works to end homelessness, said Bloodworth's story not only shows how the system failed her but also encourages stakeholders to create programs that can help people get "out of homelessness as quickly as possible into the right housing solution for them in a neighborhood that they can call home."

  • Members of Bloodworth's family also attended the ceremony.
  • "Thank you for caring enough for Melody to give her this token of remembrance," one of the sisters said. "Melody will forever live in our hearts."

What's next: Vassell, who said the cost of the project came in under $125,000 per unit, told Axios that street outreach workers, assessors at the Gateway Center, and her group's Coordinated Entry program review people in the housing waiting list to determine who will move into the new units.

  • Decisions are based on a person's vulnerability, which can include whether they've been hospitalized, incarcerated, or victimized on the street.
  • She did say that they are trying to prioritize people who are in the downtown area.
  • Vassell also said tenants will be able to start signing their leases, which will run 12 months, on Feb. 1.
  • Tenants will have to abide by some restrictions, such as rules on overnight guests.
  • Four full-time employees will be on-site to assist tenants.

What we're watching: Vassell said efforts to expand the initiative to other neighborhoods will mean getting input from those communities and addressing any concerns they may have.

  • "I think it's also an educational process to make sure they're aware of what supportive housing is, but also what it isn't. There's a lot of stigma associated with it. There's a lot of misconceptions and a lot of unfounded fear."
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