Baltimore County annually releases a “Point in Time” survey of homeless populations. This year’s report continues to show growing numbers of people who are homeless, including those that use county sheltering as well as those who remain unsheltered.
While not an official count, this “any given day” measurement counted 919 homeless individuals on January 23, 2013. It is estimated that there are actually thousands of homeless individuals in Baltimore County. These survey results also consistently suggest that Dundalk and Essex retain some of the highest numbers and percentages of individuals who are homeless of all the county communities.
As most readers know, the need to address the homelessness challenge has been an issue I have been raising for years with county officials. My call has been for the development of a comprehensive site for the homeless that addresses the needs of the homeless population while remaining sensitive to core business corridors and residential neighborhoods. I had long been an advocate for leveraging the Diamond Point Shopping Center as one such solution.
While that recommendation was not taken, a plan is now in place to expand and relocate the Health Care for the Homeless Baltimore County medical clinic as well as the Eastern Family Resource Center, which provides housing, meals, job assistance, and other services to the homeless and families in need. These services will be in a new, 60,000-square-foot building on the campus of MedStar Franklin Square at a cost of approximately $14 million. Of that amount, I was part of a successful effort last year to secure state funding in the amount of $4.875 million; Baltimore County has pledged $4 million; and MedStar Health will donate $5 million. Currently, architects are being sought to develop some planning of this transition. When complete, this will open up considerable new capacity to address challenges associated with homelessness.
I have also supported legislation that now prevents panhandling on street corners in Baltimore County without a valid permit and I have engaged the police department to request a more active presence in our major commercial centers.
But these efforts are only the beginning of our work on addressing the challenges of homelessness in our area. Among other needs, we will still need to find ways to get the homeless to the available services, and continue to find ways to make our centers of commerce places where shoppers feel comfortable and welcomed.
To that end, I am hosting a homelessness summit for our district on Monday, Oct. 28th from 6:30 until 8:00pm in the North Point Library meeting room. At the summit, detailed information about the county’s “Point in Time” survey and 10-year plan to combat homelessness will be shared and discussed.
Additionally, I have invited the police department, community and business leaders and other interested parties to share their take on the issue. It is my hope that this dialogue can be one more important step in addressing the shared challenges we face as a community and district.
Anyone concerned about the impact of homelessness on individuals, our communities, and our business climate should attend. I hope to see you there.