Half of state's homeless are families Most seeking shelter have money, poll shows

November 29, 1990|By Laura Lippman | Laura Lippman,Evening Sun Staff

Nearly half the people who sought public shelter in Maryland one week this summer were families and more than two-thirds had some source of income, according to a report released today.

The report also indicates that the number of times individuals or families are turned away from the shelters on a given evening will be 20 percent higher in 1990 than in 1989. Families will make up half of those turned away.

These figures came from a survey conducted by Action for the Homeless Inc. spanning a week in July. Questionnaires were mailed to 147 shelters statewide; 70 responded.

The preliminary findings offer one of the first locally produced demographic portraits of the state's homeless.

"Although most of the public isn't aware until winter, we've been hearing for months all the shelters are filled," said Norma Pinette, director of Action for the Homeless. "Half are families -- that's shocking, I think, even to us. It's consistent across the state."

Other statistics emerging from the study:

* Families made up 48 percent of those seeking shelter, compared with 43 percent last year. More than one-third -- 36 percent -- were single men; 13 percent were single women.

* Sixty-eight percent of those who responded to the survey had some source of income. One-third were receiving public assistance, while 22 percent had jobs. The other sources of income were Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (10 percent of those surveyed), unemployment compensation (2 percent) or spousal support (1 percent).

* Youths -- defined as those 18 and under -- made up 33 percent of shelter residents surveyed. Seventeen percent were children under age 5; 3 percent were on their own.

The report concludes that there will be 50,000 turn-away "occasions" in 1990, but it is impossible to determine how many families and individuals may be turned away more than once.

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