Bridge Fires Cause Atlanta To Clear Homeless Encampments Around City

Bridge Fires Cause Atlanta To Clear Homeless Encampments Around City

Amid another bridge fire, the City of Atlanta plans to clear out many homeless encampments, yet states it will provide new shelter options.

The City of Atlanta is clearing out many homeless encampments around the city due to fires under the bridges. The news comes amid plans to open a shelter made of recycled shipping containers.

A fire underneath Cheshire Bridge Rd in the Northeast area of Atlanta was allegedly due to a homeless encampment, assumed to spark the fire to keep warm in the frigid winter temperatures. However, the black smoke rising around 1 am on Dec. 20 led law enforcement to clear out underneath the bridge, with plans to do this across Atlanta.

The area has been prone to fires within the past year, causing a review of potential damage and danger to cars traveling through. In 2021, a massive part of the bridge was shut down completely, only reopening just recently in April of this year. The city hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the long-awaited reopening of one of the busiest streets in its domain. However, due to the latest fire surrounding the bridge, city officials must shut down part of the road again as structural engineers survey its safety.

To remedy the growing homelessness crisis in Atlanta, city officials are finalizing a $5 million village for the unhoused, utilizing renovated shopping containers to provide shelter. According to Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, plans to open the rapid transitional housing facility in January 2024 remain intact, although the village can only house 40 people.

“Policy decisions are going to be made around whether we allow or disallow anybody to ever go up under a bridge to live and so consider that trespassing,” shared the elected official. “But we’ve got to have options for people.”

Atlanta’s unhoused population has reached new heights, with the Atlanta Mission reporting that 2,000 individuals sleep outside each night. For those seeking shelter in unorthodox places, Atlanta’s airport has also become a makeshift place of refuge, leading city officials to urge the airport to develop a program to aid the nearly 200 people who sleep in the facility. Community leaders have taken action to spread awareness on the issue, including the Concerned Black Clergy of Metropolitan Atlanta, staging a “Sleep The Night Out” event on Dec. 16 in solidarity with those in this unfortunate circumstance.

As for the bridge, the timeline for its full reopening in the aftermath of the latest fire has yet to be determined.