Readers Speak Out On Housing And Health

November 01, 2008

"Housing and health" (Commentary, Oct. 24) was a compelling and thought-provoking column about the positive correlation between housing and health. However, I reject the authors' conclusion that "closing the waiting list for the Housing Choice Voucher Program will make a bad situation worse." There are 16,000 families on the waiting list for this program, many of whom have been there for five or more years, and new applicants would go to the bottom of the list and not be served for many years.

But it is important that readers understand that the Housing Authority of Baltimore City will continue to assist families with emergency set-aside housing that will be available to those referred to us by Homeless Services, families with children with elevated lead levels referred to us by the Health Department and those displaced by public action and in the case of other emergencies referred to my department.

Given the dire need for housing, HABC has been aggressively increasing family participation in the voucher program, to the extent allowed by our budget. Since August 2007, we have increased program participation by nearly 1,200 households. Our goal is for every family in need to have safe and adequate housing. Once our waiting list has been substantially reduced, we plan to reopen the waiting list.

While we disagree with the authors about the impact that closing the list will have, we agree that more federal affordable-housing resources are desperately needed.

Paul T. Graziano, Baltimore

The writer is Baltimore's housing commissioner.

As the director of The Ark, a preschool program run by Episcopal Community Services of Maryland that provides Head Start services to homeless children in Baltimore, I am well aware of the negative effects of homelessness on the development of young children.

I want to emphasize the fact that language development, which is so essential for good academic outcomes, is easily compromised by unstable living arrangements. When their parents must dedicate their energy to finding a home, children are no longer the primary focus of adult attention. Without this attention and interaction, children are exposed to less conversation, and this undermines the vocabulary development that is typically reinforced through interactions with their parents.

It is critical that all children have the opportunity to achieve their potential. Stable housing is a necessity to support this basic right.

Nancy Newman, Baltimore

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