Petition Closed
Petitioning Community Initiatives Coordinator, Special Housing Initiatives Cynthia Harrison and 3 others

Tell Georgia Special Housing Initiatives: No State Money for Homeless Shelters that Won't Serve Gays

The House of Mercy homeless shelter in Columbus, Georgia, is slated to receive a $75,000 earmark from the Georgia Special Housing Initiatives office, for work in 2011. However, the House of Mercy shelter, run by Elder Bobby Harris, refuses to serve gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender homeless people. Pastor Harris has even gone on camera with a local television station, saying the following:

"[Homosexuality] is not tolerated here at all. Let me tell you one reason why: because of the Bible, of course. And then we have little children that we won't have tolerate that kind of act here."

The local television station, WRBL, reached out to other homeless shelters in the Columbus community, and found that none of them refuse service to people based on sexual orientation or gender identity. One homelessness activist even told the station that refusing shelter to people in need would be akin to "revictimizing the victim."

Shame on the House of Mercy for denying people in need help, unless they pass a litmus test. And shame on the state of Georgia for using $75,000 in taxpayer money to fund shelters that discriminate, when other shelters around that truly serve all in need could benefit from such spending. Tell the Georgia Special Housing Initiatives Office to spend this $75,000 elsewhere, at shelters in Columbus that won't turn away gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender residents in need.

Letter to
Community Initiatives Coordinator, Special Housing Initiatives Cynthia Harrison
Program Support and Planning Manager, Special Housing Initiatives Dan Basso
Office Director, Department of Community Affairs John Bassett
and 1 other
Commissioner, Department of Community Affairs Michael Beatty
I recently learned that the Georgia state government has approved a $75,000 earmark for a homeless shelter in Columbus, Georgia, known as the House of Mercy shelter. According to the budget signed by Georgia's governor, this earmark is to be distributed by the Special Housing Initiatives section of the Department of Community Affairs. (See this link: http://www.georgia.gov/00/press/detail/0,2668,78006749_160096907_160266268,00.html)

This concerns me deeply. The director of House of Mercy, Elder Bobby Harris, has gone on local television and openly said that his shelter will not serve openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender homeless people. (See this link by Columbus TV-station WRBL: http://www2.wrbl.com/news/2011/jan/13/house-mercy-no-practicing-gays-allowed-ar-1339817/)

According to Elder Harris: "[Homosexuality] is not tolerated here at all. Let me tell you one reason why: because of the Bible, of course. And then we have little children that we won't have tolerate that kind of act here."

The fact that a homeless shelter would refuse to serve someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity is upsetting and morally wrong. Other shelters in the Columbus area have said that they will not force those in need to pass a litmus test like this; yet the House of Mercy shelter continues to insist that it won't serve gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Simply put, shelters that discriminate like this should not be rewarded with $75,000 in taxpayer money. Other shelters that truly serve all, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, should be eligible for this fund.

I urge your office to condemn the House of Mercy's discriminatory practices, and to make sure that earmarks like this are spent at shelters that truly serve all in the community. The House of Mercy shelter should not be rewarded for telling an entire population of people that they deserve to be on the streets.

Thanks for your time.