The 1st Step homeless encampment on Barber Street
By Joe Johnson
The county is seeking removal of the head of a nonprofit group that operates a government-sanctioned homeless camp following his conviction on charges he assaulted a camp resident.
In a letter to board of Athens Alliance Coalition, Athens-Clarke County Manager Blaine Williams said that the conviction of the group's executive director, Charles Hardy Jr., made the organization out of its contractual obligation to operate the homeless camp in a “safe, sanitary and supportive” environment.
With Hardy at its helm, AAC has since March 2022 overseen operations of the 1st Step homeless encampment on Barber Street, a 55-bed facility and program for unhoused individuals to stay while they are assisted with transitioning to more permanent housing. The program’s $2.5 million contract with the county is funded through the federal American Rescue Plan Act.
Charles Hardy Jr.
With Hardy’s conviction on Tuesday, William told the AAC board that it needed to implement certain “risk mitigating measures” that included the immediate removal and replacement of Hardy as chief executive officer, that he be barred from the Barber Street property, as well as be denied access to 1st Step financial accounts and other systems that are associated with the homeless program.
On Tuesday, at the end of a two-day trial in Athens-Clarke County State Court, a jury found Hardy guilty of battery, disorderly conduct and one count of simple battery for hitting a female resident at the encampment and another count of the offense for spitting on her in August 2022. Jurors found him not guilty of charges related the alleged assault of a second woman in the same timeframe.
Judge Ethelyn Simpson sentenced Hardy to serve 72 hours in the county jail plus 12 months on supervised probation. A second trial is pending, for Hardy’s alleged assault of a woman who worked as his office assistant at the 1st Step encampment