Carroll County Times
Carroll County

Homeless shelter begins new housing program

When Jacquenette Barbee-Quick, a patient care tech at the University of Maryland Medical Center, injured her shoulder, she said she couldn't go back to work until it healed. Soon, she ran through her savings and was evicted from her home.
After spending a week in her car and a week in a motel, she contacted the Baltimore County Department of Social Services and was accepted into the St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore's Sarah's Hope at Hannah More family shelter in early June.
On Sept. 6, she and her four-year-old son were set up in permanent housing, the first graduates of the Hannah More shelter's Front Door rapid rehousing program.
St. Vincent de Paul, a community service organization that runs the Sarah's Hope, Mount Street emergency shelter took over the Hannah More women and children's shelter in Reisterstown Nov. 12. Since then, shelter director Toni Boulware said they have been working to establish funding for rapid rehousing initiatives, the newest of which is the Front Door program.
Participants in Front Door are assigned a case manager who follows them and provides support for two years. These managers work with the residents to find fair market housing, and St. Vincent de Paul provides $3,400 to aid in the transition. The money can be used to purchase furniture, pay back rent that is owed or for a security deposit.
Once the clients are established in their new residence, the shelter will pay 100 percent of their rent for the first six months. After that period, the aid drops to 50 percent of their rent for the next three months, and then 25 percent for the final three months of the first year. The second year of the program involves no financial aid from the shelter; however, the case manager will still be available for assistance. The program is for employed residents who have completed the eight adult enrichment classes offered at the shelter, which include financial literacy, nutrition, job readiness and self-advocacy.
Chalon Thompson, Barbee-Quick's case manager, said she will provide budgeting assistance, help with life planning and even help establish educational goals for her clients. She said her job is to support and make sure the residents can maintain the stable housing they found.
Boulware said with the Front Door program, they are focused on providing stability for residents after they leave the shelter.
The 85-bed shelter receives its referrals from the Baltimore County Department of Social Services homeless unit. The average length of stay at the Hannah More shelter is between three and four months, Boulware said. Each room in the shelter houses one or two families. Teresa Eaton, director of communications, said that before St. Vincent de Paul took over operation, they had residents who had stayed in the shelter for two years.
"The problem with a shelter having such a long extended stay, like it was before, is that homelessness is on the rise," Eaton said. "If they're staying, that means new families can't move in."
One of the ways to keep turnover at the shelter high, while still giving families the aid they need, is assistance through one of many rapid rehousing programs, including temporary housing and Front Door.
Barbee-Quick and her son moved into a one-bedroom apartment Sept. 6. She said during the first six months of rent assistance, her case manager will check to see she is saving at least half of what she would be paying for rent out of her paycheck. She said the program provides a way for her to get back onto her feet.
Sarah's Hope at Hannah More has funding for 20 participants in the Front Door program; however, Boulware said that because they didn't receive as much funding as they were asking for from Baltimore County, they have limited the financial assistance component of the program to seven families. The other participants, those selected with higher incomes, will still receive aid from their case managers, but will not receive assistance with their rent.
Boulware said that finding funding for rehousing programs is the largest challenge the shelter faces, but there are also other setbacks.
"Some of the challenges include finding landlords who want to work with the program," Boulware said. "We also have a challenge in finding units in the communities where the residents want to live. We have residents who have their children in certain schools, and they want to move to a location so their children can continue to go there."
Eaton said rapid rehousing is a new initiative to Baltimore County, but it is vital to keep people from recycling back into shelters.
"Since the recession, we've seen a lot of new faces of poverty, and family homelessness is particularly on the rise," Eaton said. "That's why I think we're trying to address it, because the face of homelessness has changed drastically over the past couple of years."
Barbee-Quick said it was a shock and a blessing for her to end up at the Sarah's Hope at Hannah More shelter.
"I guess I'm considered working poor. If a tragedy happens, I'm out of luck. At my job, they cut overtime, so I couldn't make it up. I'm an excellent employee and I've worked all my life, and it was only an injury. Anyone can get sick," Barbee-Quick said. "This program right here did not have to exist in this economy right now. This was like a little cushion. Yes, I fell on hard times, but I fell on cushion."