U.S. to fund city on aid to homeless Grant targets needy using transit center

September 07, 1991|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- Homeless people who congregate at the transit complex at Howard and Lexington streets in Baltimore will benefit from a three-year, $600,000 federal grant that will offer them shelter and social services, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced yesterday.

"Homeless people will be better served and transit authorities' security and maintenance burdens will be eased," said Transportation Secretary Samuel K. Skinner, who also announced similar grants to New York and San Francisco. "This joint program could improve the delivery of services to our homeless population."

In Baltimore, the mayor's Office of Homeless Services will oversee a program that will create an outreach team of four full-time social workers and a benefits worker.

The goal in Baltimore is to try to eliminate the need for homeless people to rely on the transit complex for their basic living needs, transportation officials said.

The outreach team will offer food, drink, personal-care items and clothing during their initial encounters before providing access to social services -- ranging from mental-health to substance-abuse services -- along with referrals for housing and jobs.

Housing will be pursued through the state, city and private programs.

The program will include government agencies, businesses and relief organizations, ranging from the Mass Transit Administration, Greyhound-Trailways Bus Lines Inc., the Baltimore Health Department and Health Care for the Homeless.

The Urban Mass Transportation Administration will administer grants to the three cities and assess the effects of the program on homeless people and transit facilities.

There are between 2,000 and 2,400 homeless people in Baltimore, according to city estimates, with at least 25 percent living in the streets.

Federal officials also acknowledged that the program is geared to ensuring the comfort of the riding public.

"It's not one vs. the other, it's both," said Robert A. Knisely, special assistant to Mr. Skinner. "You can look at it any way you want. These people are not going to get well being in the subway."

New York City will get a $600,000 grant to concentrate on people who gather at both ends of the Staten Island Ferry, in the Whitehall Terminal in Manhattan and the St. George Terminal in Staten Island.

In San Francisco, $550,000 will be set aside to help homeless people at the TransBay Terminal, a program already initiated by the San Francisco Foundation and Travelers Aid-San Francisco.

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