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Hard rain falls on shelter


Benjamin Hardee has had enough. "I'm tired and I can't take no more," says the founder of a local homeless shelter. Yet the implication of his statement doesn't match his jovial attitude as he turns to the other men sweltering in the non-air-conditioned office. "You all remember that song?" he asks.

Nobody does, but they identify well enough with the sentiment.

The low-slung building on Simpson Street that houses the Good Samaritan Rescue Center sits among convenience stores and public housing in Vine City, just outside downtown Atlanta. Hardee opened the center earlier this year to address the neighborhood's growing homeless population, and it's in bad shape.

The heat is oppressive, and floods that came with heavy rains have led to mold. The men who sleep in a large room lined with bunk beds share space with mice that refuse to be evicted.

The center has to move soon, says Hardee, who fears that the current building will be condemned. But it's hard to say where the money to relocate will come from. Hardee runs the center on sporadic donations, residents who pay $8.99 per day and his own money; but his bathroom cleaning business is suffering during the economic downturn. He says he can't swing the estimated $5,000 per month it takes to run the center.

Eventually, the residents -- who include an electrician, a former marketing manager and other skilled workers who've met hard times -- would like to help the center run self-sufficiently.

"This place takes away the stress of being homeless," a resident says. Without worrying about breaking shelter rules or where his next meal is coming from, he says he can just work on getting on his feet. "This is our home and we're proud of it."

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