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Unused SmarTrip cards find home with charity

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WMATA SmarTrip CardUnused and unneeded SmarTrip cards with remaining balances have a new home at a Washington-based charity.

Since January 2017, Miriam’s Kitchen, a nonprofit organization aimed at ending chronic homelessness, has been running a program that repurposes unneeded SmarTrip cards for the homeless and low-income owners.

“After we had heard about the Women’s March and the volume of people that were coming, especially from out of town that needed to buy the SmarTrip card and wouldn’t really have a purpose for it after they were returning to their places of origin, it dawned on us that this would be a good way to get a valuable resource that our guests really need,” said Miriam’s Kitchen case manager Margaret Dominguez.

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“It’s Solvable . . .

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Reaching out to the chronic homeless to find a solution

MPI 0021 1A homeless man sleeps on the pavement in Silver Spring. PHOTO BY MARK POETKER  Oumou Cisse squatted down to speak with the homeless man resting by the Silver Spring Metro station. She identified herself as “street outreach” before asking him if he needed a new pair of socks.

Without making eye contact, the disheveled man tilted his arm awkwardly to accept the clean, white socks. Although he hadn’t said a word to Cisse, an outreach specialist at Bethesda Cares Inc. who often walks six miles a day around downtown Silver Spring, considered the brief encounter successful .

It’s all about building trust, Cisse and John Mendez, director of outreach and special projects at Bethesda Cares, explained. That’s why they keep an eye on those sleeping around the Silver Spring library, the Metro station, the recycling dumpsters, where the smell isn’t as strong as the trash dumpsters, and the numerous bus stop shelters and alleyways.

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County sets sights on ending homelessness

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Montgomery County has set what it considers a very doable goal of providing housing for its 242 chronic homeless people and is committed to ending chronic homelessness within its borders by the end of this year.

In a community memorial service held outdoors in the Circuit Court Plaza on June 7, the new initiative called Inside, Not Outside, was announced.

County Administrative Officer Chuck Short explained that since the County’s homeless veterans have now been placed, it is time to focus on the chronically homeless, people who have been homeless for at least one year or have had at least four episodes of homelessness during the previous three years and have some problem or disability that needs a specific intervention, such as drug or alcohol addiction or illness.

Those who aren’t considered the chronic homeless have a specific, short-term, problem that forced them into the streets for a few months, including job loss or high medical bills.

Even if the County does provide housing — not just space in a shelter — there always will be new people ending up on the street or in a car, said Council member George Leventhal.

“We have to keep working on it every year,” he said. “People’s situations change all the time.”

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MoCo sees slight dip in number of homeless residents

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Homelessness in Montgomery County decreased by 9 percent from 2016 to 2017, according to an annual survey conducted by Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

According to the survey, which was a one-night snapshot of the homeless population on Jan. 25 of this year, there were 894 homeless people in the County, as compared to 981 in 2016 and 1,100 in 2015.

The 894 people included 86 families and 172 children, according to the survey.

The survey, in its 17th year, tallied the homeless population in nine jurisdictions in the Washington, D.C. area. Overall, there were 11,128 homeless individuals in the nine jurisdictions, according to the survey which was released last week.

Amanda Harris, Montgomery County’s chief of special needs housing in its Department of Health and Human Services, called the numbers in the survey “typical,” although the survey noted that day was unseasonably warm.

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Letters to the Editor, September 1, 2016

Young and homeless

To the editor;

John F. Kennedy once said, “The future promise of any nation can be directly measured by the present prospects of its youth.” If we truly believe in this, our future doesn’t look so bright.

Did you know that over one million youth experience at least one night of homelessness a year with over ½ million youth being homeless for at least one week or longer in the U.S.? (US DHHS).  This is a staggering statistic given that the U.S. is considered an international super power and one of the wealthiest nations in the world.  Youth are considered our future, yet we continue to allow a large portion of them to live on the streets with no end in sight.

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Advocate claims millions needed to end homelessness

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Fewer people are experiencing homelessness in Montgomery County compared to 2015, but homeless advocates say it will take millions of more dollars to shelter the hundreds of people who remain without permanent housing.

According to Susie Clair-Smith, the executive director of the Montgomery County Coalition on Homelessness, the Fiscal Year 2017 County budget includes $250,000 for alleviating chronic homelessness.

However, it will take $3,020,000 more to provide permanent housing for the 151 "frequent flyers," or people who are chronically homeless, said Clair-Smith.

"We need much more," she said, describing the chronically homeless population as "the most vulnerable in Montgomery County."

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Local priest honored for homeless work

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The Montgomery County Coalition of the Homeless honored local priest Father John Enzler with the 2016 Distinguished Service Award Thursday night at the Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless Gala.

Enzler was awarded for his efforts to veteran homelessness throughout the County by developing the idea of “adopting a veteran” in several communities.

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Advocacy group denounces criminalization of homeless

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Homeless-StreetsWASHINGTON, D.C. - A report published earlier this month by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty (NLCHP) documents a rising nationwide trend of laws and policies that criminalize America’s homeless population. These policies, the report’s authors argue, violate the civil rights of homeless persons and only increase financial burdens on taxpayers.

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County group helps homeless reach goal

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100000 homes logoWASHINGTON, D.C. – The 100,000 Homes Campaign, a nationwide grassroots effort to place 100,000 homeless persons into permanent housing, was launched in July 2010. On June 11, the campaign held a ceremony at the Reserve Officers Association of the United States on Capitol Hill to celebrate achieving this goal before their four-year deadline.

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