By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published May 16, 2019
SANDY SPRINGS—In mid-April, the City of Sandy Springs and the nonprofit Mary Hall Freedom House reached an agreement to settle a two-year dispute over zoning ordinance violations.
In the agreement, the nonprofit agreed to separate the program services it provides from the condominiums on Roberts Drive where clients live. Mary Hall Freedom House (MHFH) is a housing and substance abuse program, founded in 1996 by Lucy Hall, who lost her mother to alcoholism. Hall has dedicated herself to breaking the cycle of generational addictions. She holds a degree in human services from Shorter University, and national credentials as a substance abuse counselor. MHFH serves homeless women, some of them veterans, as well as their children.
In the settlement between the two parties, MHFH also agreed to dismiss a federal lawsuit it previously filed against the city and city officials. The suit alleged discrimination against those with disabilities and minorities.
Pax Christi of St. Jude the Apostle Church, Father John Kieran, and other community and church representatives spoke out on behalf of the organization and its work, urging the city to work with the nonprofit to correct violations.
“It’s a wonderful win,” said Joe Goode, a Pax Christi co-leader. “I do believe the public interest and just seeing the women Mary Hall Freedom House is helping made a difference.”
“I am proud that we were able to bring this matter to a resolution,” said Sandy Springs City Attorney Dan Lee in an official statement. “The city’s goal in taking legal action was compliance with the zoning law, which safeguards not only the character of the neighborhood, but the residents who live there, including women enrolled in rehabilitation programming conducted by Mary Hall Freedom House.”
The city said it received complaints from residents of MHFH and Dunwoody Reserve, located at 9400 Roberts Drive, related to the social services provided to program tenants at the condos, which were in conflict with zoning ordinances. The city stated no MHFH residents had a lease that would allow them rights of occupancy because tenancy was directly connected to the treatment they were receiving. The city’s citations sought to separate provision of services from the Roberts Drive location, moving them entirely to the program’s commercial operation at 8595 Roswell Road.
MFHF agreed to separate the services and that the Roberts Drive tenants would receive leases of at least six months in compliance with homeowner association rules. Mary Hall Freedom House has agreed to apply to rezone its offices on Roswell Road to comply with ordinances.
The nonprofit announced the agreement and dismissal of zoning violations on a Facebook post April 9.
“Thank you to everyone who has been supporting us through this,” read the post.
Father Kieran, Pax Christi members and Rabbi Spike Anderson of Temple Emanu-El, Sandy Springs, participated in a prayer vigil Feb. 22 at Rivercliff Lutheran Church for Mary Hall Freedom House. Some 75 people, including community members and past clients of the housing and substance abuse program, attended the service.
Hall chronicled the history of the citation conflicts in an interview with The Georgia Bulletin in March.
“From day one, whatever we’ve needed to do, we’ve been willing,” said Hall at the time.
She attended a Pax Christi meeting to educate them on the issues surrounding the citations and struggles with the city to move forward, saying the support of the Catholic community had been important at the various hearings and trials.
“They have been phenomenal,” she said in the March interview. “I turned around in court and saw the Pax Christi crew and I cried.”
Pax Christi USA works against economic injustices harmful to those who are poor, minorities, children and women. The group promotes universal human rights through solidarity with oppressed and marginalized people struggling for dignity.
Pax Christi has referred women to the MHFH program, as have other parishes in the archdiocese, with several success stories.
Joe Goode said Pax Christi meets the first Wednesday of each month at St. Jude in the ministry building, beginning at 11 a.m. The church is located at 705 Spalding Drive in Sandy Springs.
“Anybody’s welcome,” he said.
For details on Pax Christi, contact Joe Goode at 404-483-0765 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.