Advocates urge joint effort for homeless Groups seek city help to coordinate campaign

November 01, 1996|By Ernest F. Imhoff | Ernest F. Imhoff,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Robert Guy Matthews contributed to this article.

Leaders of 60 shelters, soup kitchens and other service providers for the homeless in Baltimore plan to ask the city to help lead a coordinated effort to combat what they see as a widening though often invisible problem.

"The homeless problem is getting worse," Mary Lee Bradyhouse, chair of the Baltimore City Coalition of Providers, said yesterday. She said the group wants to meet with Daniel P. Henson III, city housing commissioner, who three weeks ago took over supervision of the homeless service program in a City Hall reorganization.

Joanne Selinski, who has directed the homeless services for the city and reported to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, has resigned effective next month. Bradyhouse said her coalition wanted to build on Selinski's efforts to pull together the various groups in a coordinated way.

Bradyhouse and almost a dozen other speakers at a two-day meeting charged that many Marylanders were forgetting the homeless because they were "out of sight, out of mind."

In fact, she said, homelessness in Maryland is "a gruesome picture" that is getting worse. No new figures were offered.

Federal welfare reform, reduced Housing and Urban Development funds and a growing number of drug addicts will add to the numbers, she asserted.

"We all need to collaborate better to find out what's possible for the homeless -- the city, we providers, businesses, legislators, HUD, homeless people, citizens," said Bradyhouse, whose main job is running five city shelters for Catholic Charities.

Action for the Homeless, which lobbies for service agencies, organized the annual meeting Wednesday and yesterday of 200 professionals at the Maritime Institute of Technology in Linthicum Heights. Seminar topics ranged from managing aggressive behavior to overcoming barriers to employment.

Action says 51,000 homeless people were sheltered last year in Maryland, the majority in Baltimore. More than half were women and children. Homeless people were turned away 42,000 times from full shelters in Maryland.

"There is widespread cynicism that nothing works in fighting homelessness. We do have programs that work," said Kathy Graham, assistant director, Office of Transitional Services, state Department of Human Resources.

She challenged her audience to continue effective efforts to get people off drugs, into permanent housing and jobs and to improve their health.

Douglas Miles, public policy director of the Maryland Food Committee, said, "There's not the political will [in the community] to end homelessness. When the Ravens trucks pulled up, there was the political will for millions to build a new football stadium."

Miles urged activists and others, including business people, to tell the governor and other politicians, "We've got to do &r something about the problem."

"There isn't enough anger in this room," Miles said. "If you were homeless, you'd be mad as hell." Only one person present was identified as homeless.

Robert V. Hess, Action executive director, summed up: "Act together. Get the word out. Create the political will."

Pub Date: 11/01/96

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