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“Encouraging”

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Survey shows homeless population in Montgomery County continues to fall

A homeless man sleeps on the pavement in Silver Spring in July 2017. FILE PHOTOA homeless man sleeps on the pavement in Silver Spring in July 2017. FILE PHOTOThe number of homeless people in the County decreased by 6 percent, according to a survey from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. There were 54 fewer people experiencing homelessness in 2018 than in 2017.

The number of homeless people counted on Jan. 24 decreased from 894 in 2017 to 840 for this year.

“I think we are getting down to the most vulnerable. These are the hardest to house,” said Christine Hong, director of homeless services at Interfaith Works.

Volunteers throughout the Washington, D.C., area walked the streets to count the number of people experiencing homelessness. That night, they found 7,473 homeless people in the District, which is eight percent fewer than in the previous year. In Prince George’s County, the number of homeless people dropped by 10 percent.

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Homeless disagree with County

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A homeless man sleeping on the pavement in Silver Spring in July of last year. FILE PHOTO A homeless man sleeps on the pavement in Silver Spring in July of last year.      FILE PHOTO Despite optimistic talk of how more and more homeless people were moving into permanent housing, the tenor of Monday night’s community dialogue on homelessness changed when about 15 homeless people entered the meeting in the Silver Spring Civic Building and disputed how well the County is handling its homeless population.

“Morally it’s wrong to say you have compassion, and you don’t,” said Sharetha Wilson, who recently moved into her own place after four years living on the street.

“You say you have compassion, but you pass us on your way,” she told the packed meeting room. “If you see us on the streets, if you see us in church, why not say, ‘How can I help you?’” she asked. “You all snub your noses.”

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MCCH optimistic about shrinking number of MoCo homeless

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When the results come in from Wednesday night’s annual national count of homeless people, the Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless (MCCH) is optimistic that the numbers here will show that the County is well on its way to ending homelessness.

“We think there will be a significant drop. We are keeping our fingers crossed,” said Susie Sinclair-Smith, executive director of the MCCH, which works with the County and area non-profits to assist the homeless find permanent housing. 

The county is mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to count its homeless. This year’s count, which took place from 10 p.m., Jan. 24 to 2 a.m. Jan. 25, is “a snapshot. It’s not 100 percent accurate, but you get a good snapshot” of the number of people sleeping outside throughout the County, she said.

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Homeless deal with frigid local temperatures

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Darryl Roundtree slept outside on a bench by the Silver Spring Metro station Friday night with only two blankets between him and the freezing cold temperature, which dipped down into the low teens that night.

It’s not the first night by far the 55-year old man has slept outside. He’s been homeless for about seven years now, he said as he finished enjoying a free, healthy brunch at Progress Place on Georgia Avenue Saturday morning. 

He had tried to get over to the Montgomery County-owned-facility where Shepherd’s Table, Interfaith Works and other non-profits provide services to the area’s homeless. He had hoped to sleep in the shelter there Friday night, but wasn’t able to make the half-mile trip, he said.

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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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