Internationally, the term 'community support project' is often given to localized responses to acute crises or disasters. The homelessness crisis in Atlanta, characterized by a sharp increase in the number of people brought into the cycle of extreme poverty and criminalization in recent years, is certainly one that demands localized solutions. And while tangible resources - access to food, clothing, affordable housing, healthcare, recovery services, jobs, and education - are critical to breaking free of this cycle, it's often incarceration, or the lingering barriers caused by any form of criminalization, that keep people stuck.
The Atlanta Community Support Project (ACSP) was started by Luci Harrell in December 2022 with the goal of decriminalizing poverty and dismantling practices that perpetuate the local crisis. Due to rapid gentrification and a continued culture of negligence that makes it okay for lawmakers and policing agents to criminalize our neighbors for just BEING, Atlanta has one of the highest poverty rates of any major U.S. city and the largest income gap. This crisis is exacerbated by the fact that slavery is constitutionally protected in Georgia (meaning folks are forced to work for decades for no pay while incarcerated), our state has more people under correctional control than any other, and discrimination against those who have a criminal conviction is legal. While these overt forms of racist oppression continue to disproportionately disrupt the lives of people of color, LGBTQ people, women, survivors of intimate partner violence, and even veterans, the fact is that we are all affected.
Arresting and citing poor people because they don't have anywhere to go, because they are suffering from a mental illness, struggling with addiction, or simply because other, more privileged community members don't want to see them existing should be a crime. Cutting people off socially and financially while in jail and prison, then requiring them to find housing, jobs, and pay fines and fees immediately upon release - lest they be further criminalized - should be a crime. Instead, these practices continue daily, to the same people, for the same quality-of-life issues, perpetuating a captive cycle that prevents folks from getting a job, applying for or keeping an apartment, and receiving social security, disability, and/or healthcare benefits they are entitled to under federal law. The cycle directly inhibits well-being and safety for individuals and whole communities.
As the ACSP grows, we stand in solidarity with each other, our families, and communities - given and chosen - working to decriminalize poverty in Atlanta and beyond. Check back often; this website will be updated as we go.
Currently, the work of the ACSP involves: