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Keyword: rehousing

County sealSue DeSantis
 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. 

Moving Forward:

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.


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