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The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Shipping containers at Macon’s Medical Center depart for downtown Atlanta housing project

A+shipping+container%2C+part+of+The+Medical+Centers+temporary+medical+unit%2C+gets+prepared+for+transport+to+Atlanta+in+November+2023.
Sofi Gratas
A shipping container, part of The Medical Center’s temporary medical unit, gets prepared for transport to Atlanta in November 2023.

Over the weekend, Central Georgia’s largest hospital said goodbye to a flock of shipping containers used to treat overflow patients during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The nearly 30 state-owned shipping containers parked in a lot outside Atrium Health Navicent’s Medical Center were guided onto flatbed trucks.The temporary medical unit was used to house up to 20 patients ill with COVID during pandemic peaks, when beds remained full.

Emergency manager for the hospital, Steve Ramsey, helped set these trailers up when the temporary medical unit became active in late May 2020.

“As COVID numbers decreased, we continued to maintain it to support our hospital and community on an as-needed basis,” Ramsey said. I’m glad that it can be used somewhere else.”

Bound for downtown Atlanta, these containers and others like them owned by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency will soon be converted to apartments and used to temporarily house people experiencing homelessness as part of a $4 million “rapid housing” project.

Part of a “housing first” approach and supported by Atlanta’s Partners for HOME, the project will combine affordable housing with wrap-around services for people who are unhoused or have low incomes.

Meanwhile, Macon’s Mayor and Commission recently approved nearly $2 million to multiple local organizations as part of its homelessness prevention program. The money will be used for food, rental and utility assistance as well as to fund the construction of more affordable housing.

This way, said Jake Hall with United Way of Central Georgia, people can receive assistance in “each level of the housing spectrum.”

While he admitted it’s a good idea for temporary housing, Hall said his agency was “unaware” of GEMA’s plans to convert the shipping containers to housing in Atlanta.

I do know that increasingly, emergency management directors, both locally and at the state level, are drawn into the crisis of housing insecurity,” Hall said. “This particular opportunity is just not something that crossed our path.”

Hall said county agencies are currently involved in conversation to build better avenues toward permanent housing for people in need.

Carlton Williams with the Macon-Bibb Economic Opportunity Council said at a recent meeting of the mayor and county commission that the city needs more shelter space with less barriers to entry. $68,000 in rental and utility assistance funds and an additional $100,000 to house people in motels and hotels is just a “drop in the bucket,” said Williams.

Funding for homelessness prevention in most of Georgia, including Macon, comes through federal and state grants from the state Department of Community Health.

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