www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/readersrespond/bs-ed-homeless-letter-20130308,0,5539580.story

baltimoresun.com

City's plan to raze encampment is shameful

7:30 AM EST, March 8, 2013

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It remains a mystery why Baltimore wishes to endanger the health and safety of people living in an encampment ("Homeless eviction plan criticized," March 5). Baltimore's "Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness" specifies an effective method to manage encampments: move the residents into permanent supportive housing without requiring them to use emergency shelters. This is the "Housing First" approach that the city adopted five years ago — and refuses to follow today.

More than a decade of research has demonstrated the efficacy of the Housing First approach. No research supports the city's contention that destroying encampments is helpful. Neither is there research confirming that the obliteration of a community will "push the homeless there to get their lives back on track." Perhaps those homeless folks are to blame for Baltimore's 9.9 percent unemployment rate, 22.4 percent poverty rate, and the dearth of affordable housing (50 units of affordable and available apartments for every 100 renter households).

Either city officials are betraying their ignorance of homelessness or they are prevaricating about their intentions. Most telling is the mayor's statement that placing vulnerable encampment dwellers in a motel is "not a responsible use of taxpayer money." Taxpayer money will be used to destroy the encampment (police, public works, and outreach workers), but not to house the homeless.

It is also shameful that a public official would betray such a callous attitude toward people forced to live outdoors. "Many of them are on drugs," the city's homeless outreach coordinator, Olivia Farrow, said. "They can't bring their drugs in the shelter. They can't bring their booze in the shelter." Surely these antediluvian sentiments do not represent the human services approach of a 21st century metropolis.

All Baltimoreans, including our homeless neighbors, deserve better.

Jeff Singer, Baltimore

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