Battered and homeless in Howard

December 29, 1993

It was the kind of news that would depress one's spirits at any time, but particularly so during a holiday season associated with family and peace.

The Howard County Department of Citizen Services recently reported that 42 percent of the county's homeless are victims of domestic violence; nearly always that means homeless women and small children.

Those are only the bald statistics. The physical and emotional misery resulting from these circumstances is incalculable.

The report marks the first time that Howard County -- one of the state's and the country's more prosperous places -- has closely analyzed its growing population of homeless. Social workers surveyed 213 first-time clients of the county's three primary shelters from August to October.

The percentage closely mirrors the national average, and is 16 percent higher than was reported at the county's first summit on homelessness two months ago. The survey results should effectively shatter the notion that the ranks of the homeless are overwhelmingly dominated by men suffering from mental illness or substance abuse.

Other measures of homelessness revealed in the report also paint a picture of families in dire straits. About 44 percent were evicted from rental units or from the homes of family and friends. Added to the tragedy was the fact that Grassroots, a private organization that runs a county shelter, had to turn away 11 families in October due to a lack of funds.

The unanswered question is how to turn the tide against domestic violence while effectively providing havens for its victims.

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COMMUNITY POLICING TRIUMPH: Community policing, one of the latest prescriptions in the war on drugs and random violence, appears to have paid off for at least one Howard community.

The residents of Waverly Winds, a subsidized apartment and townhouse community in the Harpers Choice village of Columbia, report that police have driven away the drug dealers that once plagued the neighborhood.

Police said they stepped up patrols at Waverly Winds last summer, leading to at least one arrest. Cooperation from residents and assistance from county housing officials were crucial elements in the program's success.

It was a job well done.

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