Baltimore County works on 10-year plan to end homelessness

Roundtable meeting is first of several planned sessions

December 20, 2010|By Mary Gail Hare, The Baltimore Sun

Baltimore County wants to end homelessness within the next decade with prevention programs, changes in its shelter services, expanded job training and an increase in affordable housing for individuals as well as families.

Officials took the first steps in developing a 10-year plan with a roundtable session Monday that drew county, state and federal officials, as well as community and church leaders. The effort grew out of a weeklong planning session on homelessness in October, led by national consultants on housing issues.

Participants resolved to build "an integrated, community-based support system, which will prevent homelessness and provide the necessary resources to end it," according to the initial draft of the long-range plan.

The plan would ensure "accessible, affordable housing and the supportive services necessary to maintain that housing" to those at risk of homelessness, the draft says.

Nearly 900 individuals are homeless in the county at any given time and nearly 40 percent of them are living on the streets, officials said. The remaining homeless are in emergency shelters or transitional housing.

"The goal now is how to meet our objectives in 10 years and how to find ways to assure a move from transitional to permanent housing," said Sue Bull, the county's homeless coordinator.

About 30 attended the roundtable, the first of several planned throughout next year, at Towson Library. Participants split into several committees, which will each meet monthly to tackle different aspects of an overall housing plan and develop realistic ways to implement it by next fall.

"What we want is a basic work-flow diagram," said Mary Jean Herron, chief financial officer at Health Care for the Homeless in Baltimore. "I think there will be wonderful ideas, but if we can't implement them, things won't change."

Bull wants to shorten stays in public shelters, she said.

"We will work on housing first, not long-term shelter," Bull said.

The county has included several changes in the applications from its shelter and housing providers for next year.

"If you are a vendor, you will have to provide day programs for [job] training," Bull said. "You will also have to hire a housing coordinator."

mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

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