On the steps of Atlanta’s City Hall, a group of interfaith leaders came together to announce a ten-step plan that they believe can help the city of Atlanta combat poverty and crime.
In attendance was Rev. Darryl Winston of Greater Works Ministries, Bishop Carl McRae of Exousia Lighthouse International Christian Ministries, Pastor Keith Hammond of New Generation Baptist Church, Georgia Director for Faith in Public Life Graham Younger, and Brenda Smith.
The group addressed what they each believe to be an issue with the city and how improvements can be made. Together, they agreed that poverty is at the heart of most of Atlanta’s problems.
The plan focuses on topics such as increasing the number of affordable housing units, establishing a faith-based crisis center, creating a centralized child care center and building STEAM- science, technology, engineering, arts and math- academies.
Winston believes that the ten-point plan can revitalize the city for its residents. He described a disconnect between the progressive and prosperous image that the city promotes and the reality of poverty and inequality.
“For too long, Atlanta has been billed as the city ‘too busy to hate’, however, in reality, it looks more like ‘the city too callous to care,’” Winston said.
A major concern for the group is that of homelessness in Atlanta. They want to see politicians find a way to ensure that people won’t have to live on the street.
“We’re standing across the street from the homeless, people who have been on the streets all night long, and we’re asking- What can we do to change that?” Smith said.
“This is not what [Martin Luther] King and others worked so hard for, gave their lives for. So how do we change that?” she continued. “When we have so much plenty, so much money, so much riches, so much opportunity, but we ought to get something for [those who have] the least and raise them up.”
The leaders think that although crime in Atlanta is an issue, there are factors that contribute to and perpetuate the cycle of crime that needs to be addressed first.
“Everybody has a comment about crime,” McRae said. “We recognize crime is a problem in this city, as it is in every other major city of this country. Crime is a product of the poverty that’s in each one of these cities. Not one of the [mayoral] candidates have been meaningful in their engagement of what real solutions can be if we address the issues of the poor, marginalized, people with disabilities, and certainly the homeless population.”
Hammond isn’t against police, but doesn’t think that hiring more officers will decrease the amount of crime because they “show up after the crime has already been committed.”
Younger acknowledged that while poverty may not be a comfortable topic to discuss, it should be talked about more often. He’d like for the mayoral candidates to look over the ten-point plan to commit to the steps.
He also wished for voters for the current mayoral election to consider what changes they want to be made to their city before voting.
“I’d like the voting public in particular to think about the issues that are most important to them,” Younger said. “I’ve seen many polls that say crime is the most important issue to the public in this [mayoral] election. My question to you would be: What would our crime rate look like if poverty was truly addressed in this city?”