I have just read a 2007 report from COHRE [Centre On Housing Rights and Evictions] about the story behind Atlanta's 1996 Olympics bid. It makes me ashamed that I participated in the Georgia Tech Olympic Committee to help bring the Olympics to Atlanta. As just a person wanting Atlanta to participate in such a multinational and ideal event, I had no idea of the real cost to Atlanta's poor.
You should see this report. Go to http://www.cohre.org/store/attachments/Atlanta_background_paper.pdf, and you may download it. This well-documented paper, "part of the COHRE Mega-Events, Olympic Games and Housing
Rights Project. It was prepared as a preliminary independent study of the impact of the Atlanta
Olympics on housing rights. Similar studies were done for the cities of Athens, Barcelona, Beijing,
London, Seoul and Sydney. The background research papers were used in the preparation of
COHRE’s Fair Play for Housing Rights: Mega-Events, Olympic Games and Housing Rights report, launched
in Geneva on 5 June 2007. The contents and opinions of the material available in this paper are those
of the author and do not necessarily correspond with those of COHRE. All documents published as
part of this project are available at: www.cohre.org/mega-events/." It is written by "Anita Beaty ... the Director of the Metropolitan Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless. She was previously president of the National Coalition for the Homeless and Habitat International Coalition
Board Alternate. As an Olympic activist, Ms. Beaty visited Madrid in 1995, Sydney in 1998, Toronto
in 1999, and Salt Lake City in 1999."
I left Atlanta in 1994, but followed all the Olympic news, and worried about the fate of the poor, which was conspicuously absent. I knew where many public housing projects were, and that they were being displaced.
In 1999, we were in Salt Lake City, and I noticed efforts to conceal the poor. Similar things probably happened to them, that happened in Atlanta. I saw the rental rates go up; I was a renter. I saw the fight against the Traxx Light Rail, which was a good thing for people who took the UTA buses, like single parent me.
We came back to Atlanta in 2003. I now used a wheelchair, and our plans fell through. Suddenly, I found out that shelters were almost nonexistent, and those in operation gave you 3 weeks to get a job and get out. Transitional housing? Waiting lists so long it was very impractical. I and my teenage daughter had to go to Gainesville, GA to find accessible housing - in the middle of two warring gangs. Housing was more expensive in Cornelia, where my sister lived. Her house isn't accessible, and I wanted our own apartment.
I met a social worker who was part of a task force for the homeless. When the Olympics forced the homeless into rural areas ill-equipped to take them in, Gainesville had a coalition of churches providing temporary housing. But, each church only housed them for two weeks, then the unfortunates had to move to another church. See this article http://www.tlcinst.org/Moving.html for how moving affects children, especially school performance. I can imagine the effects of this are multiplied with frequent moves, and homelessness.
In 2005 we finally got into a mixed-income accessible apartment in NE Atlanta. I was shocked at the changes, at how much more expensive it was to live there, how crowded MARTA was, and the increase in road rage on the highways. I saw the poor when we went to Chamblee. I heard their stories as I applied for food stamps or went to the Social Security Office in my fight to get disability.
Then came Katrina. If we had lived in New Orleans, we probably would've waited in vain for someone to come get us. I didn't know that you had to evacuate yourselves. How do you do that, without a car?! The sight of that poor man who died in his wheelchair made me shudder. Why didn't someone offer him food? Why couldn't the police let people get food and water from stores, when help didn't come? The reality, that people like me died in New Orleans because someone in government didn't feel like doing anything to save them, still makes me shudder.
I am still asking, what happened to the poor? But, it's not just Olympic cities. It's not just New Orleans. This is a problem within the borders of the US, and probably in every country in the world. Why don't we help our poor? Where are the people with good morals, the people who believe in a God, the people who care about the fate of strangers?