Olympics' harsh legacy for homeless, poor & minorities FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Sun, 4 Apr 1999 13:09:00 -0700 (PDT)


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http://deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,75000916,00.html
FWD  Deseret News - Fri Mar 26, 1999

     SPEAKERS TELL OF '96 OLYMPICS' DARK SIDE

     Spencer K. Young - Deseret News staff writer

Anita Beatty could not believe it when Atlanta was awarded the Summer
Olympic Games back in 1990.

"We couldn't understand why we would even go after (the Games) when we had
the kind of poverty we did," she said. "Thirty percent in Atlanta live
below the poverty line."

Beatty, director of the Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, was in Salt
Lake City Thursday to speak at forum at St. Mark's Cathedral. Gerald Weber,
legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, also spoke
at the gathering.

Olympic officials and Atlanta business leaders tried to hide the city's
dark side during the Games, the speakers said. The efforts left a legacy
that still haunts the homeless and the poor today.

Police waged a war against the homeless, trying to get them off the
streets. The city passed ordinances allowing officers to arrest people for
camping or asking for money, Beatty said.

In one case, police went through a park and jailed every homeless person in
it. Officers also pre-printed arrest slips for homeless black men, Beatty
said. All they had to do is write in the names.

"There were officers in safari hats that were supposed to show people
around," Weber added. "But mostly they just showed the homeless out of the
area."

Poor residents were tossed into the streets as low-income housing units
were torn down for Olympic facilities, Beatty said. Atlanta lost thousands
of low—income apartments starting two years before the Games.

Another problem was rental costs that soared when landlords mistakenly
thought they could make thousands of dollars renting to people in town to
watch events. Owners tried to rent $400 units for $3,000 during the Games,
Weber said. Landlords kicked out tenants and terminated leases to open
units.

"This was a problem that affected people of all income levels," Weber said.

With proper planning, Salt Lake City can avoid the mistakes Atlanta made,
the speakers said. Weber suggested laws that would prevent landlords from
raising rents to ridiculously high rates during the Games. Also, Salt Lake
City could avoid a lot of negative publicity by not trying to hide its
homeless population.

Rosemary Kappes, director of the Housing Authority of Salt Lake City,
doesn't foresee as many problems during the 2002 Games, she said. Kappes
does not think many landlords will evict tenants to try to rent their units
for big bucks.

Other problems in Atlanta during the 1996 Games included a lack of
organization among the dozens of police agencies that assisted in the
Olympics. Nobody really knew who was in charge, Weber said.

Officials did make some good moves in planning, Weber added. The city set
aside 14 areas for protests and demonstrations. Utah Olympic officials
should do the same or protesters could show up all over the place.

Thursday's forum was sponsored by the Utah ACLU, the Utah Housing Coalition
and the Salt Lake Impact 2002 and Beyond.

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