Baltimore County

Ministers lead march, rally for Balto. Co. homeless

A Methodist bishop and a Baptist preacher led a line of about 200 who marched from a church in Towson to the Baltimore County Council meeting Monday. They walked past a van that had been a woman's home for two weeks and a tent that still is a man's only shelter as they made their way to the Old Courthouse.

The eighth annual Rally for the Homeless began with a light supper and a few speeches at Trinity Episcopal Church on Allegheny Avenue. It continued with the march and pleas urging officials to continue funding programs that assist those without housing.

"If we all work together, we can move people from shelters to permanent housing," said Bishop John Schol, leader of the Baltimore Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church. "We will partner with everybody who wants to work on homelessness."

Most marchers wore light blue T-shirts printed with the logo of Baltimore County Communities for the Homeless. They filled all the seats in the County Council chambers and stood along the back wall.

"I want everyone to see our sea of blue and know who we are," said the Rev. Joseph Sanders, president of the advocacy group.

On any given day in Baltimore County, more than 550 men, women and children are living in shelters and hundreds more are on the streets, according to a recent homeless survey. Counselors receive an average of 40 calls daily from those asking for beds, and nearly 2,000 homeless children attended county schools last year. The county has just launched a 10-year effort to end homelessness with more outreach programs and an increase in affordable housing.

"County government needs to be involved in these problems," Councilman David Marks said. "We can't turn a blind eye. These events show there are people who care."

The most compelling testimony came from those who have experienced homelessness. Teresa Jackson, 47, lives in a Rosedale apartment now, but she spent months at the county's Eastside shelter.

"With help of a whole lot of people, more of us can make it," she said.

Barbara, 61, had worked all her adult life, until her terminally ill mother needed her. In the process of caring for her mother, Barbara, who didn't want to give her last name, became disabled herself. After her mother's death, she found herself homeless, living in her van. With help from the county, she is now renting an apartment.

"I feel honored to be here tonight," she said. "If not for you, who knows what would have happened?"

Council President John Olszewski said, "We hear you. We know what the issue is, and we will give you all the resources we can."