Schmoke forms task force on homelessness modeled after program in Miami

Move grew from debate over Our Daily Bread

August 27, 1999|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke announced yesterday the formation of a Task Force on Homelessness designed to duplicate the effort of a similar Miami board of business, education, religious and political leaders.

The 12-year mayor, who will step down in December, said at his weekly news conference that the task force is being formed as an outgrowth of the recent debate over the location of Our Daily Bread soup kitchen.

Last year, downtown business leaders suggested moving the popular soup kitchen from Cathedral Street and out of the path of redevelopment. The proposal was protested by advocates for the poor, who criticized proponents as wanting to hide poverty.

As a result, the Center for Poverty Solutions, a nonprofit advocacy agency for the city's poor, visited nine cities to study how they addressed homelessness. The report "Helping People Off the Streets -- Real Solutions to Urban Homelessness" commended a regional task force in the Miami area that has made strides in raising new money to fight homelessness.

Schmoke said the task force chairman will be George Collins, former chairman and chief executive officer of T. Rowe Price. Collins also led an ad hoc group that studied the Our Daily Bread situation.

"This is not just a government problem," Schmoke said. "It's a matter for all of us to address."

Other groups involved in the task force include the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, the Greater Baltimore Committee, the Downtown Partnership, Associated Catholic Charities and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Among the goals the group lists is creating more permanent housing for the poor, improving job services, providing more widespread health care and coordinating services among hundreds of groups aiding the poor in the city.

"After conducting national research on solutions to homelessness and services for the homeless, the Center for Poverty Solutions concluded that Baltimore's business, community and government leaders need to work in partnership with the nonprofit sector to create a strategy," said Rob Hess, president of the Center for Poverty Solutions.

In the past year, Baltimore homeless advocates said, they have turned away 20,000 people from shelters that were full.

Miami has increased its annual spending on homeless services to $6 million by adding a 1 percent tax to food and beverages, the first of its kind in the nation.

In Dade County, Fla., where Miami is located, a 27-member board of trustees was created to raise private money to help reduce homelessness. In the past five years, the group raised $16.4 million and, as a result, received $28 million more in federal grants. Baltimore spends about $15 million in homeless services annually, much of it raised through federal grants.

Pub Date: 8/27/99

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