Who is Basil Eleby, the man accused of setting fire that caused - CBS46 News

Who is Basil Eleby, the man accused of setting fire that caused I-85 collapse?

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Eleby Basil from 2014 (Source: Fulton County Jail) Eleby Basil from 2014 (Source: Fulton County Jail)

As metro Atlanta prepares for months of traffic problems, Basil Eleby is looking at possible hard time for allegedly starting the fire that led to I-85's collapse.

His friend, Dave Sloan, says this is just another challenge Eleby will have to face.

"He comes across to me as someone who suffers primarily from poverty, despair and some undiagnosed mental illness and drug addiction, homelessness," Sloan said.

Sloan has known Eleby for more than 10 years. He said he's lived on the streets for much of their friendship. They met at the Triangle Club off Piedmont Road, a venue where several 12-step programs, those aimed at treating addiction, gather.

Sloan said, "He's had struggles with sobriety. There have been times when he's stayed sober and been really happy and really motivated and really excited and just overflowing with joy about it and then he hasn't been able to stay sober and then he collapses into despair and remorse and shame and those are the cycles that I've watched him go through over the years."

CBS46 found that over the years Eleby been arrested 19 times. Many of those arrests were related to drugs. Sloan believes there's an underlying issue.

"I believe and a lot of other people who know Basil believe that he needs mental health care," he said.

Anita Beaty with the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless says mental health care is just one of many resources homeless people are lacking.

"People say well all they have to do is get a job or get a place to live or go stay with somebody, it is not that easy."

Beaty believes the problem is lack of affordable housing in metro Atlanta, which forces the poor to live in shelters long-term or out on the streets.

"If people are stuck there because the housing policies are regressive in this city instead of progressive than we're playing musical chairs with housing out there. People are in and out of housing, in and out of shelters. People are in and out of this system," he said.

CBS46 contacted the city to find out what's being done to help the homeless in our area.

We were told the city is partnering with United Way to provide shelter and transitional housing and raising $50 million to provide additional resources.

In regards to affordable housing, we were told the following:

"Affordable housing is a priority of the Reed Administration, and we currently working to ensure that working families have affordable housing options. The City of Atlanta established a city-wide affordable housing ordinance that will require any multi-family residential property receiving a subsidy, grant or incentive from the City of Atlanta to set aside affordable units."

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