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Homeless suffering in cold weather


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Published on: Thursday, February 06, 2014

By Peter Rouleau

ROCKVILLE – This Winter’s harsh weather is renewing concern for the plight of Montgomery County’s homeless population.

 “People were coming to our shelters at a rapid rate,” said Diane Aten, Chief External Affairs Officer for the Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless, (MCCH), a nonprofit organization which provides food, housing and other aid to homeless people.  Aten said that MCCH focused on reaching people with mental illness. Staff and volunteers handed out hats, gloves and hand warmers as a means of establishing trust.

“Even during the cold, it takes some encouragement to get people to come into a shelter, particularly if they have a history of mental illness,” Aten said.

Kenny, a 68-year-old Vietnam War veteran who panhandles on Rockville Pike, typically avoids shelters, fearing the lack of security.

“You can’t take your backpack to the bed area, you have to leave it in a room,” Kenny said. “But you know how at a store, they’ll give you a number for anything you drop off? There’s nothing like that in the shelter. Anyone who leaves before you can just pick up your stuff and walk out the door. That’s what happened to me about a year ago.” Kenny said that in addition to    clothes and other belongings, he lost his identification cards, which he is still in the process of replacing. During the recent cold spell, however, Kenny stayed in a shelter operated by the Community for Creative Non-Violence in Washington DC.

Kim Ball, Homeless Services Administrator for Montgomery County, acknowledged that some of Kenny’s concerns were valid.

“Unfortunately, the shelters do not have security guards, and during the winter, the ratio of staff to clients is about one to twenty,” Ball said.  “It is a challenge when you have so many people coming into a facility.

The county presently provides housing for about 350 homeless individuals and 40 families.

Ball and Aten both expressed the need for a permanent solution to the homeless crisis.

“The cold snaps get attention, but the long term solution is permanent housing,” Aten said. “It’s a moral imperative to find people housing and get them off the streets.”

MCCH is joining with the county’s Department of Health and Human Services and other local nonprofits to participate in the 100,000 HOMES campaign, a national effort to provide permanent shelter to 100,000 homeless people. The County Council recently approved a special appropriation of over $640,000 for Fiscal Year 2014 to provide housing and support to the most vulnerable homeless citizens.

“No one should suffer for lack of a roof over their heads,” said County Executive Ike Leggett. “I’m proud to support the 100,000 HOMES campaign.”

Anyone interested in volunteering or contributing to the campaign should contact  Herb Smith at herb@mcch.net.

Reader Comments - 2 Total

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Posted By: Lydia D. York On: 2/13/2014

Title: DHHS LIES

$640,000 to provide housing and support? Great. Where's the money going? Because I'm a disabled veteran living in Montgomery County whose been told by DHHS and the City of Rockville to take a long hike off a short pier. That's ok, don't have an answer about the money? Don't care about myself and my son? With the vast information concerning corruption and fraud locally and at the federal level (HUD), a Qui tam lawsuit is long overdue. DOJ also needs to conduct an investigation into how come all the money which was supposed to be appropriated towards housing and prevention of homelessness hasn't been spent in that regard. OOOooooooooweeeeeeeee.... Sucks to be Ms. Ball and Ms. Ahluwalia right about now........ Oh, by the way - you don't have to print this - I'll just go to the Washington Post. Someone WILL hear our (poor residents) pleas.

Posted By: Lydia D. York On: 2/13/2014

Title: Kim Ball LIED

Oh, ok - so Kim Ball and Uma Uhlawalia (DHHS Executive Director) both lied to me when they said that they didn't have the money or the resources to house myself and my son??!! Gee, why am I not surprised??!!




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