Former Atlanta Mayor and U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young will visit Sandy Springs Dec. 3 to defend a local nonprofit and dispute the city’s allegations it is illegally using condos as transitional housing for women and children. The nonprofit, Mary Hall Freedom House, says it formed a committee of business leaders, including Young, that found no merit to the city’s legal challenges.
“Andrew Young is essentially doing it because he believes it is wrong for a government to threaten innocent women based on minor code violations,” said Victoria Croft of the public relations agency Hope-Beckham Inc. in an email.
The nonprofit, which helps women with homelessness and addiction issues, in 2017 bought more than a third of the 90-unit Reserve of Dunwoody condos at 9400 Roberts Drive. The purchase immediately drew criticism for displacing many tenants and has drawn complaints from residents for all-hours activity.
The city has given the group 33 citations for operating without a business license — one for each of condos it owns. Mary Hall Freedom House’s press release said it has received 34 citations, but it is unclear what the additional one is. The status of previous citations is also unclear. MHFH and a lawyer representing the condo board has said a previous challenge was thrown out by a judge, but city spokesperson Sharon Kraun said that is incorrect.
The city maintains that the transitional housing is not a permitted use in the condos.
The press release said that over 100 women and children would be at risk of becoming homeless again if the city’s challenges are successful.
The nonprofit announced Nov. 30 in a press release that Young and Lucy Hall-Gainer, MHFH’s founder and CEO, would visit the condos on Dec. 3 to discuss the city’s allegations and committee’s findings.
“The committee report found nothing out of order,” the release said. “[Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul] has been invited to visit the housing and make his own judgment but will not, nor will the city meet with the facility to work through the issues.”
The city said staff has met with the group “on several occasions,” but Paul will not until “the legal issues are resolved,” Kraun said.
“On advice of counsel, it would be inappropriate to meet prior to the legal matter running its due course,” Kraun said.
The first court hearing was held this month and a second is coming Dec. 12, Kraun said.
“If they had done the homework, they would have discovered the units purchased are not located in an area zoned for drug rehabilitation or commercial operations,” she said.
MHFH says its committee includes Young, who also previously served in Congress; John Rabun, founder of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children; Len Romano of Christian City; Laura Rappold of the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church; Kellie Glenn of Covenant House; and women’s rights attorney Nancy Hogshead-Makar.
Other members include Sandy Springs residents and business leaders Sunny Park, Ron Canakaris, Jim Squire, Clark Dean and Dave McCleary, the release said.
The committee was formed by Hope-Beckham Inc., a public relations agency that was hired by MHFH, Croft said.
Squire said in a brief phone interview that he has not been able to attend committee meetings or visit the condos, but will be present at the event.
The condo board’s attorney, George Nowack, has previously said the board hopes the city’s citations are successful. Nowack did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the event.