At the Macon-Bibb County Commission meeting on Tuesday, commissioners met to vote on whether the Brookdale Resource Center would receive funding for renovations and upgrades.
C. Jack Ellis, who served as the mayor of the City of Macon from 1999 to 2007, came to the meeting to speak against the new funding for the center.
Ellis pointed out that the City of Macon tore down approximately two thousand houses, but is putting money into the Brookdale Center, which was formerly the site of Brookdale Elementary School. He claimed that the facility is not equipped for families and that funds should instead be used to ensure that people do not lose their homes.
"We are taking money, putting it in a building that was not suitable for people, it was suitable for a classroom, and we're trying to retrofit it while we're evicting people,” Ellis said. “We want to house them in a facility that was ill-equipped but now we have people being evicted and we're not using a cent of the COVID money to keep them in their homes in the first place.”
In May, Macon-Bibb County tore down 31 blighted houses in under 30 days.
Additionally, Ellis said that the funds going to the Brookdale Resource Center were from emergency grants designated to assist with issues created by the COVID-19 pandemic, which African Americans have been disproportionately affected by.
"We have a lot of money coming into this town and it’s coming to this town on the backs of poor Black people," Ellis said. "I suggest that we use some of this money to keep people in their homes in the first place to keep them from being evicted,. I commend you for tearing houses down, but you gotta build some."
Current Mayor Lester Miller, who partnered with several agencies to create the center in January, disagreed.
"It's the perfect location to have the warming center,” Miller said. You've got classrooms divided up that you can turn into bed spaces for families...you even have a full kitchen with a cafeteria.”
The Macon-Bibb County Commissioners approved the funding the Brookdale Resource Center for in a unanimous vote. The funding includes $75,000 in bedding from the Economic and Community Development Emergency Solutions Grant and $482,165.01 for various upgrades from the Emergency Solutions Grant.
“We feel like it's the right thing to do.” Miller said. “It's something that we needed in our community for a while.”
The Brookdale Resource Center first opened in January as the Brookdale Warming Center. It was created in response to the death of two homeless men due to hypothermia in December 2020 and aims to provide resources and services to those in need. United Way began operating the center in July.