When landlord is kinder than Maryland governor

This Just In ...

November 13, 1995|By DAN RODRICKS

Health Care for the Homeless is a busy, loud place at 9:30 in the morning, with whiskered men in oversized coats lining up for appointments, names being called, doors slamming and echoes bouncing off the floor of what was once a bank lobby.

The money managers gave up this space off Park Avenue a few years ago, and now, where there used to be a vault, there's a triage center for the rock-bottom poor.

It's not going to break down and move any time soon, either. Health Care For The Homeless looks established, institutional, permanent. They were supposed to have 60 patients a day. Now HCH does 200.

One of them is Peter, a 40-year-old man stepping out of the crowd and the noise and placing his thin hand in mine. He is casually dressed, neat and clean. He is handsome, though, when he speaks, you notice that front teeth are missing. Nonetheless, he is well-spoken. His eyes are clear.

Until last month, Peter was among Baltimore's homeless. Homeless and HIV-positive. His story goes like this:

A few years ago, he lost his maintenance job when a nonprofit organization in the District of Columbia lost some of its funding. He came back to Baltimore and lived with his parents. First his mother died, then his father.

"There was nothing for me after that," says Peter, who was his parents' only child. "I just stayed in the streets, or stayed here and there." He spent three years back in the District, living and working at the late Mitch Snyder's Community For Creative Non-Violence. He's been back in Baltimore since March.

That's when he learned he was HIV-positive. He applied for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration.

While he waited for his application to be processed, Peter received $157 a month from the state. He used it for food and personal items. That money, through the Disability Assistance and Loan Program, was the only money available to him as a single, childless, unemployed and homeless man in Maryland. "And food stamps," he adds. "I got $119 a month in food stamps."

But the $157 disappeared in the summer when the governor ordered the end of DALP and replaced it with another program that allows $50 a month for rent. ("But, don't worry," one can hear the governor saying, "the Browns are indeed coming to Baltimore!")

If not for an understanding landlord, Peter would probably still be homeless. He's living in a $350-a-month apartment on Maryland Avenue only because the landlord expects to be reimbursed once Peter's Social Security benefits are approved. (That's assuming, under the Contract with America, a man who is HIV-positive qualifies.)

In the spirit of "press conference anticipation," so high just a week ago when Art Modell came to town, allow me to mention that officials of Action for the Homeless have scheduled an announcement for tomorrow. They're releasing results of a survey on how former DALP recipients have fared since the program was cut. Don't know if the local stations plan on covering it live, though. Check local listings.

The wait's worth it

Sign in a Provident Bank branch in Towson: "Ask about a loan, hon." I know where you can get an authentic cherry Coke: G&A Restaurant, 3802 Eastern Ave. And if you want the Friday pierogis -- filled with cheese, potato, sauerkraut or meat -- at St. Michael's Ukrainian Catholic Church near Patterson Park, get there early. The line will remind you of Eastern Europe: Long and slow. (But the pierogis are worth it.)

Mice feel her coming

Overheard at a Towson-area animal hospital:

"Hi. I'm here to pick up our cat, Killer."

"Killer's fine. She's ready to go. By the way, Killer is quite overweight."

"We like to think of her as full-figured."

"No. Not full-figured. Fat."

"Big-boned?"

"No. Not big-boned. Fat!"

"Pudgy?"

"No, not pudgy. Fat. She is fat. Fat. Fat. Fat. She is a FAT CAT!"

"So, what are you really trying to say?"

Did Spartans eat pie?

I understand the pizza is terrific at Spartan Pizzeria in good ole Highlandtown. But what's in the name? Not much. Last I checked, "spartan" meant "simple," as in a "spartan diet." (I understand "Spartan" might also refer to "one from Sparta," the militaristic city-state of ancient Greece, and I suppose the troops could have ordered pizza during the Peloponnesian Wars.) But, look, if I'm naming a pizza place, I'm not taking chances. I'm naming it "Big Fat Pizza" or "Pizza Grosso." My advice to the people at Spartan Pizza: Drop the "n." And that concludes the aesthetic criticism portion of this column.

Check that cart

Overheard at a Giant store on Joppa Road near Perring Parkway:

"Hi. Do you want paper or plastic?"

"Yes."

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