City spends $65,000 to ferry homeless to overflow shelters

January 18, 2012|By Julie Scharper, The Baltimore Sun

Baltimore officials have spent nearly $65,000 over the past six months bringing homeless people to overflow shelters, according to city spending documents.

The city opened a new $8 million shelter last year that offered private showers, laundry facilities, computers -- and provided 100 fewer beds.

That's a problem because Baltimore's homeless population has grown exponentially in recent years.  Outreach workers counted 4,100 homeless people on a January night last year, but noted 3,400 two years earlier.

Part of the solution could be addressed by the city's spending board Wednesday.  The Board of Estimates is set to vote on a $95,000 contract with Jobs, Housing and Recovery, the nonprofit that runs the city's shelter.

According to the board's agenda, the shelter will allow 25 women and 50 men to sleep in dayrooms each evening "due to the frequent demand exceeding shelter capacity."

The shortage of beds, especially for women, has been a sore point for homeless advocates in recent months.  The American Civil Liberties Union and the Homeless Person's Representation Project had threatened to sue the city because the shelter offers fewer beds for women than men. They said shelter workers turned away women while accepting men, due to the shortage of beds.

The city's fire marshal had previously said that as many as 60 people could sleep in the day rooms. It is unclear how the limit was increased to 75.

Each evening, some homeless people are taken by bus from the city shelter in the 600 block of Fallsway to several overflow shelters throughout the city, including the former city shelter in the 200 block of Guilford, a few blocks away.

The Mayor's Office of Homeless Services is asking the spending board to retroactively pay $64,993 to Durham School Services for taking people to overflow shelters from July-December.

The new shelter sleeps fewer people than the facilities that preceded it in part because federal funds never materialized that city officials had hoped could be used to secure permanent housing for the homeless.






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