Baltimore County News
By Bryan Dunn, Department of Economic & Workforce Development
Homelessness can start with losing a job or learning that a family member has a serious illness, then finding that the cost and complexity of everyday life is snowballing out of control.
Meet Jennifer. We’re not using her real name to protect her privacy.
Jennifer was let go from her job and fell into homelessness. She knows what working hard is all about. She has extensive food service experience, including staff supervision. But it was tough to know how to compete in today’s market. Living in a shelter in Reisterstown, Jennifer felt locked out from the world of work.
Jennifer was a resident of Sarah's Hope at the Hannah More Emergency Shelter when she met staff from Saint Vincent de Paul and Anthony Smith from Baltimore County’s American Job Center. Working together, they helped unlock Jennifer’s career.
As part of the County’s strategy to prevent and reduce homelessness, Job Center staff regularly take a mobile career unit to the county’s three largest homeless shelters, bringing services directly to people who need help getting back into the workforce.
When Baltimore County’s mobile career services came to Sarah's Hope, Jennifer was ready to get to work. Anthony helped Jennifer develop her résumé and post her profile on the Maryland Workforce Exchange, a statewide database of job opportunities. Anthony coached her on how to search and apply for food services positions that matched her experience and skills. Staff at the Liberty Job Center in Randallstown also pitched in with services.
The hard work payed off. Jennifer was offered a position at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Jennifer restarted her career and Baltimore County is beaming with pride to be a small part of her success.
There’s nothing like hearing the words “You’re hired, Jennifer.”
Do you or someone you know need a job?
Baltimore County’s American Job Centers in Hunt Valley, Randallstown and Eastpoint provide free career consultation and development resources and services, career placement assistance and career training.
Advances County’s 10-Year Plan to Prevent and Reduce Homelessness
Men caught in the cycle of homelessness will be much better able to work toward self-sufficiency thanks to Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz’s investment in a new $3.4 million shelter for homeless men on the campus of Spring Grove Hospital Center in Catonsville.
“The reality is, the homeless among us are not simply strangers down on their luck—they are somebody’s father, somebody’s sister, somebody’s child,” Kamenetz said. “The opening of this new site for the Westside Men’s Shelter represents a significant step forward in our 10-year Plan to Prevent and Reduce Homelessness.”
Kamenetz and nearly a hundred homeless service providers, advocates and clients celebrated the grand opening of the modern 154-bed, 15,000 square-foot building, which replaces an outdated facility and incorporates functional amenities to better help residents receive the services they need and work toward independent living. The facility is operated and staffed by the nonprofit Community Assistance Network.
About the New Westside Shelter
The new shelter is designed to address barriers to independent living that homeless men may encounter. It includes:
- a resource and conference room with computer stations to allow residents to search for employment and housing, as well as space to hold workshops and classes
- a large fenced and gated garden area in the back of the shelter in which staff and residents will plant and grow their own fruit and vegetables
- a social room with new furniture, bookcases, and a television
- a commercial kitchen with new appliances and a spacious dining room
- a sizeable laundry room
- and, an exam room to be used by Health Care for the Homeless and the Department of Health and Human Services, so that residents can get important health services on-site.
The shelter, designed by Rubeling and Associates and built by North Point Builders, incorporates many “green” features, qualifying it for LEED SILVER certification.
County to Break Ground this Fall on a New Shelter for Women and Families
In addition to this new shelter for men, the County plans to build a new $25 million, 80,000 square-foot Eastern Family Resource Center in Rosedale that will include:
- an enhanced shelter for women and families serving up to 250 people
- a transitional shelter program for women and families with a capacity of up to 38 people
- and, a new shelter for men with a capacity of up to 50 people.
The building, slated for completion in March of 2017, will house various Health Department functions that support shelter residents, and will also include expanded space for Health Care for the Homeless.
Homelessness in Baltimore County
In 2014, Baltimore County received more than 6,600 requests for shelter, representing more than 3,100 individual households. On any given night, more than 745 men, women and children are housed in homeless shelters or living on the streets and in encampments throughout Baltimore County.
“A Home for All,” Baltimore County’s 10-year Plan to Prevent and Reduce Homelessness in our communities, was created with input from a diverse group of more than 60 local and regional stakeholders from both public and private sectors. It includes seven key strategies that have proven to be effective in reducing homelessness.
The plan focuses on systemic changes, preventing homelessness where possible, and rapidly rehousing people in shelters and permanent and supportive housing. The plan uses relevant data and better leverages existing resources to move people toward independence.
County to Create Community Sports Fields at Former Shelter Site
The site of the former homeless shelter will be transformed into a $1.3 million recreational site featuring an artificial turf field, lights and open space for the Catonsville community on the grounds of Spring Grove Hospital Center. Construction on these sports fields is slated to begin next spring and be completed by the Fall of 2016.
“This modern new facility is an important step forward in the County’s comprehensive plan to address homelessness by targeting its root causes,” said 1st District Councilman Tom Quirk. “In the Catonsville community, we also eagerly await the new recreation fields that will be created on the site of the former shelter.”
Homeless Services Administrator
Baltimore County Department of Planning
To the average citizen the word “homeless” often conjures up the vision of person pan handling on the corner, living in a tent in the woods or in shelter. One might think to themselves that folks who are experiencing homelessness should pick themselves up, improve their lives, and get a job. We often don’t think about or see the larger scope, the complex problems these individuals face or the many services that already exist and how those services are delivered.
Baltimore County is making a daily difference in the lives of homeless men, women and children and County Executive Kamenetz is committed to not only continuing to support these efforts but to improving and building a stronger system that shifts our focus from shelters to long-term solutions.
There are more than 550 men, women and children living in homeless shelters across Baltimore County on any given night and hundreds living in places not meant for human habitation such as cars and encampments. The County with significant community support has devised a 10-Year Plan to shift homeless service delivery and as a result, prevent and reduce homelessness.
The plan, called “A Home for All,” began with an unprecedented community input process in 2010 and grew from the work of the Baltimore County Homeless Roundtable with significant input from the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Subcommittees focused on Housing, Accessing Mainstream Resources, Homeless Prevention and Outreach, Coordinated Assessment and Data Management worked to create seven key strategies:
Strategy One: Reconfigure the Crisis Response System:
Expand on the current coordinated assessment system and retool the emergency shelter system.
Strategy Two: Targeted Prevention Assistance
Focus prevention services on those most at risk of homelessness through careful selection and connection to mainstream resources.
Strategy Three: Rapid Re-Housing
Create a “housing first” approach that combines affordable and permanent housing with supportive services.
Strategy Four: Accessing Mainstream and Community Resources
Increase connections to mainstream resources in order to create a means for housing and self-sufficiency.
Strategy Five: Permanent and Supportive Housing
Create new permanent supportive housing units Countywide.
Strategy Six: Improved Data and Outcome Measures
Build on the existing performance measurement structure through the creation of system-wide data standards and reporting requirements.
Strategy Seven: Resource Allocation
Align funding sources around common outcomes including housing and supportive services.
Making it Happen:
The Homeless Roundtable, in coordination with these committees, is tasked with carrying out these action items and assuring that the County is moving forward to put in place systems which will result in the reduction and duration of homelessness for residents of Baltimore County.
Baltimore County is committed to realizing the goal of preventing and reducing homelessness, and as a result, has funding to begin to implement a number of the strategies shown above. Specifically, funds have been identified for the following programs:
1. Pilot Shelter Diversion - The primary goal of the pilot diversion program will be to work with individuals and families seeking shelter to find alternatives to entering the shelter system.
2. Rapid Re-housing –Through this program, families receive housing counseling, assistance in securing housing; time limited rental assistance and case management in order to ensure housing stability.
3. Increased Outreach - Prologue’s Street Outreach Team serves the most chronic and vulnerable homeless population in Baltimore County; those individuals and families living on the streets, in cars and in other places not meant for human habitation. Additional funds will allow for the addition of 1.5 outreach workers to provide outreach and case management, and for the Outreach Center to be open an additional day.
4. Job Navigator -Perhaps the most significant barrier to obtaining and retaining permanent housing is the lack of adequate income. To help address this root cause of homelessness, the County has provided funding for a Career Navigator, through the Department of Economic and Workforce Development. The Career Navigator will work primarily at the shelters and focus solely on employment.
The Homeless Roundtable is close to completing implementation plans for each strategy. These plans include goals, action steps, planned partnerships, outcomes and performance measures and plans for resource allocation. These plans will serve as the pathway to preventing and reducing homelessness.
For questions regarding the plan and future efforts, please contact Sue DeSantis, Homeless Services Administrator, Baltimore County Department of Planning, 410-887-2886.
Revised April 6, 2016