Advocates say homeless need services

A broader scope of aid for women and children is called for at forum

February 14, 1999|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

Time and again yesterday, people who work with Baltimore's neediest residents underscored the need for broadening the scope of services to an increasing number of homeless women and children.

Bureaucrats and advocates who gathered for a forum on homelessness at Sojourner-Douglass College in East Baltimore stressed the need for additional family shelters and services such as counseling and job training.

"Many of the jobs available today are beyond the level of people coming to us," said Jacki Coyle, assistant director of Our Daily Bread, a downtown soup kitchen run by Catholic Charities that serves 600 to 950 lunches a day.

Coyle said that every month, her organization is seeing a 10 percent increase in women and children seeking assistance. To meet that growing need, she said, Catholic Charities is expanding its services to include employment training and counseling.

"We definitely need more facilities for women and children," said Tyrone Lucas, director of programs for the Helping Up Mission, which has a residential 13-month program in East Baltimore for men recovering from addiction.

The Helping Up Mission serves women and children by giving out food, but does not have a place for them to sleep, Lucas said. He said the mission is looking into ways to expand its services.

"We have a five-year plan," Lucas said. "We're going to expand from just men."

The forum, which was attended by about 60 people, was conceived by Robert A. Jones, head of the social sciences department at Sojourner-Douglass College, who assigned 26 political science students to plan an event that would focus the community on issues facing the homeless.

"I think it helps them to make a difference in the community and to learn something about their own organizational skills," Jones said. "Practical education is just as good as theoretical education."

When Jones first told his students in November that they would have to do something for homeless people, they thought they might be putting in a few volunteer hours at a soup kitchen, said Tira Beane, a sophomore in the class.

But on Jan. 20, they got their assignment to organize the event. The members of the class divided duties to get speakers, publicize the forum and carry it off.

One of the panelists was also a member of the class. Denise Perkins, manager of public safety guide operations for Downtown Partnership, spoke about the success of the group's Hands In Partnership program.

Under the program, six public safety guides were hired to identify needy people in the downtown business area and get them to available services.

"We've successfully helped 60 people off the street," she said.

Pub Date: 2/14/99

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