Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Jewel surprised the crowd at a dinner benefit Saturday night for the Journey Home, a partnership between Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and United Way of Central Maryland that aims to "make homelessness rare and brief in Baltimore in the next decade."
Jewel Kilcher, who was homeless early in her music career, was introduced shortly before 10 p.m. She is known for the 1990s singles "Who Will Save Your Soul" and "You Were Meant for Me."
She opened her performance for about 450 attendees — several of whom had just spent thousands of dollars in a live auction — with a version of "Over the Rainbow."
The Journey Home is in its third year of a 10-year plan to reduce homelessness in the city.
Rawlings-Blake addressed the crowd before Jewel appeared.
"We are dealing with people, we are dealing with families," she said. "We are not dealing with numbers."
According to Baltimore Homeless Service's "Year Three Outcome Summary," released in July, the Journey Home oversaw the opening of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Center, on July 5, 2011, a 24-hour facility in the 600 block of the Fallsway that can shelter 275 people per night.
The $8 million facility also offers day services like meals, showers and health clinics.
The project has also exceeded its three-year goal to "[l]ease 500 ... units to individuals and families who have experienced homelessness for a long period of time or have multiple barriers to housing."
So far, with help from non-profit organizations such as Catholic Charities and St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore, more than 600 units have been leased.
The city was criticized recently for the amount of space it makes available to women in shelters.
Earlier this week, the ACLU and the Homeless Persons Representation Project sent a letter to Rawlings-Blake threatening legal action if the city does not make equal numbers of beds available for women and men.
The city's new shelter has 175 beds for men and 75 for women with 25 additional beds in a long-term convalescent unit.
The Journey Home was designed to tackle what its leaders consider the root causes of homelessness, including a lack of affordable housing, the cost of comprehensive health care, insufficient incomes and a shortage of preventive and emergency services.
In its mission statement, the Journey Home pledges that by 2018, the city will have "sufficient capacity to identify and respond to individuals and families at risk of homelessness, to provide immediate emergency shelter and to transition from emergency shelter into permanent housing with appropriate supportive services within 30 days."
During fiscal 2011, the United Way of Central Maryland lined up $493,000 in pledges to the partnership.
Baltimore Sun reporter Julie Scharper contributed to this article.
twitter.com/stevekilarCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun