The homeless aren't 'vagrants'

November 10, 2010

Wait a minute. Did The Sun really just use the term "vagrants" to describe people without homes who take shelter in any of the city's 30,000 vacant properties? ("Rawlings-Blake unveils plan for vacant housing," Nov. 4). Sure enough, there it is — leading off a trio of terrors including vermin and the threat of fire.

Homelessness certainly vexes the Baltimore area as an increasing number of our neighbors struggle to make ends meet and face unemployment, foreclosure and eviction. Local governments — hampered by a dearth of federal and state resources — and the marketplace simply haven't been able to match the supply of affordable housing with the growing need for it. Even our emergency shelters, insufficient in number, turn people away on 20,000 occasions each year. But let's be clear: the menace is homelessness, not the children and adults experiencing it.

Omitted from the story is an interesting question about the relationship between the mayor's new plan for vacant housing and the mayor's admirable 10-year plan to end homelessness. What role can the former play in meeting the goals of the latter, including opportunities for training and employment?

The objective of ending homelessness in our community is not well served by antiquated references in the area's leading newspaper equating vulnerable human beings with rats and house fires. Perhaps no one at The Sun has studied the 19th century — which is where the V-word belongs.

Kevin Lindamood and Jeff Singer, Baltimore

The writers are vice president for external affairs and president and CEO of Health Care for the Homeless.

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