By Joe Johnson
The Athens-Clarke County Police Department is investigating an allegation that the head of a local nonprofit that is operating a county-sanctioned homeless encampment sexually assaulted an employee who quit because of his repeated behavior.
Charles Hardy, president and executive director of Athens Alliance Coalition, is being investigated for the offenses of sexual battery, terroristic threats, and influencing a witness, according to police.
Hardy, 49, of Bethlehem, did not respond to a request for comment.
The offenses allegedly occurred at the 1st Step homeless encampment on Barber Street, which is operated by Hardy's organization.
“The victim stated that she was an employee of the suspect at this location and during meetings in the suspect’s office, the suspect touched the victim’s buttocks, said ACCPD’s public information officer, Lt. Shaun Barnett. “According to the victim, this occurred several times during the month of June 2022.”
Barnett added, “The victim claimed that when she made it apparent that she would not have sexual relations with the suspect, the suspect then changed her work schedule and reduced her hours to the point that she had to seek employment elsewhere.”
“According to the victim, she was contacted by an unknown person that threatened harm against the victim. The victim believes the threat was related to this incident in an effort to dissuade the victim from reporting the incident,” according to Barnett, who said the case had been assigned to his department’s Criminal Investigations Division.
1qst Step is funded by a $2.5 million contract awarded to Athens Alliance Coalition by the Athens-Clarke County Board of Commissioners. The contract is funded by the federal American Rescue Act, and it is providing Hardy’s organization to operate the camp for one year, with the possibility of a 10-month renewal.
With a 55-bed capacity, the program works with Advantage Behavioral Health Systems to place residents in long-term housing.