Two of Reisterstown's homeless-services providers, Sarah's Hope at Hannah More emergency shelter and the Community Crisis Center participated in a nationwide Point-In-Time survey of the homeless community in Reisterstown Jan. 24.
Volunteers from the Community Crisis Center went to reported homeless encampments looking for people to take their survey, while employees at Sarah's Hope administered the survey to the women and families sheltered there. The Point-In-Time survey measures the extent and causes of homelessness, as well as sources of income and the movement of communities.
Eileen Compton-Little, board member at the Community Crisis Center, said the survey is mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
"It's really important, this count, most people don't realize, but it really is the basis for funding for all the different communities," Compton-Little said. "Last year, when I did the count, they were very concerned about homeless veterans; that was a trend they were looking for."
The Community Crisis Center volunteers were unable to find any unsheltered homeless to participate in the survey. Compton-Little said migration related to the weather has affected the count in the past.
"It really did affect part of Dundalk's count last year, because there was a large group of homeless, about 15 or 20, that all decided to leave and go to Florida the same time two weeks before the count," Compton-Little said. "[The volunteers] thought that there was a large encampment that they were going to go and serve, but they ended up with nothing."
According to last year's Point-In-Time survey, 38 percent of the 800 total counted homeless moved to Baltimore County from Baltimore City, 23 percent because of a lack of shelter access in the city.
Mary Rode, senior vice president for program operations of St. Vincent de Paul, the organization that runs Sarah's Hope at Hannah More said the shelter fully participated in the survey.
"I think the thing that is most important is keeping families together," Rode said. "It's an outgrowth of homelessness that families get broken up or divided. We want to provide resources so that families can remain intact."
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Dr. Ed Hartman, executive director of the Community Crisis Center, said Reisterstown has a unique homeless population. "It's interesting; in Reisterstown, we probably have between 20 and 25 people who live on the street every night. There's probably another 20 to 25 individuals who sleep in their cars," Hartman said. "A lot of those folk are ones who utilize the food bank and hygiene supplies and referrals that this facility uses, and I think that's different than you might find in Dundalk or inner-city Baltimore."
In addition to Sarah's Hope at Hannah More, St. Vincent de Paul runs a shelter in Baltimore City. Rode said working in Reisterstown has its own specific challenges.
"I think the big challenge in Baltimore County is finding affordable housing," Rode said. "There isn't a lot available in Baltimore County, and so many don't really have the financial leverage to rent an apartment for $1,000 a month."
St. Vincent de Paul began operating Sarah's Hope at Hannah More in November. Rode said they are trying to obtain funding for a Front Door Program to rapidly rehouse families. The program would include a housing coordinator to help families determine the best option of housing for them, as well as helping a subgroup of homeless find affordable market-rate housing.
In contrast, the Community Crisis Center works to prevent homelessness before it occurs. They offer food, personal hygiene products, eviction prevention funds and referrals to services for low-income families. Hartman said last year they served slightly less than 3,000 people, two-thirds of which are younger than 18.
Both Compton-Little and Rode emphasized that their services depend on volunteers and support from the community. The Community Crisis Center is looking for volunteers to aid with client intake during center hours; for more information contact Dr. Ed Hartman at
. Sarah's Hope at Hannah More is looking for volunteers to aid with meal preparation, youth activities, guest relations and more. For more information about volunteer opportunities there, contact Sue Elias, director of volunteer resources, at 410-662-0508 ext. 209.