Ending homelessness

January 17, 2008

Baltimore has set an ambitious goal with its plan to make homelessness "rare and brief" within the next decade. But as long as City Hall and its allies remain committed to the plan being announced today, this worthy goal should be achievable.

Generally, a lack of affordable housing, health care, high-paying jobs and comprehensive services keeps about 3,000 homeless people on Baltimore's streets on any given night. The plan focuses on sensible solutions with concrete benchmarks.

Within the decade, 500 units would be rented to individuals or families who have been homeless for a long time or who have multiple problems. The units would come with support services under the successful Housing First program, and 100 would be provided in the first year. At the same time, non-elderly people with disabilities would be given priority for subsidized housing vouchers. The plan also aims to remove local zoning barriers against housing for the homeless.

City officials also recognize that even with more housing, homelessness won't end without expanded Medicaid eligibility and increased access to medical care; substance abuse treatment on demand and a range of other services; and training programs and opportunities for the homeless to secure steady employment. A focused plan should help draw partners from the business and nonprofit communities to realize specific targets.

Mayor Sheila Dixon deserves credit for providing more than $1 million in city funds this year. That commitment from City Hall will have to be sustained if the plan is to be accomplished - and the city is to become a better place for everyone.

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