Feeling ignored and increasingly desperate, a group of disabled men and women who receive a subsistence allowance from the state said yesterday that if the payments are discontinued, many recipients will have no alternative but to turn to crime.
"I feel like a rat, one of the gentlest creatures on earth until forced into a corner," said Martin Daley, 44, of Baltimore. He described himself as an alcoholic who also suffers from high blood pressure, anemia and schizophrenia. "You take everything from me, man, and I have to start taking from you."
Mr. Daley and about 50 other men and women, many of them describing themselves as homeless, were taken to Annapolis by bus yesterday by advocates for the poor. They went there to urge Gov. Parris N. Glendening to restore the state's $35 million Disability Assistance Loan Program.
The program's 21,000 recipients, who are medically certified as disabled and unemployable, receive medical care plus $157 a month.
The governor has said repeatedly that the state cannot afford the program as it is now structured. In its place, he has proposed a scaled back medical plan and a $10 million system of housing vouchers to help former DALP recipients pay for lodging.
Advocates for the poor say the cost of giving up the program will be far greater than the cost of continuing it. The expense of jailing former DALP recipients who commit crimes, confining others to mental hospitals and paying to expand homeless shelters will be far more costly than leaving the program intact, they say.
"Isn't it a little ironic that the same month they will cut the DALP program is the same month they open a new jail in Baltimore?" said Devin Anderson, 25, who recently starting receiving DALP payments because of a neck injury. "They know what they're doing. They know it's going to increase the crime rate."
Dianna Rosborough, press secretary to Mr. Glendening, said the governor "appreciates their concerns and is always willing to listen." But she said he has no plans to restore the program beyond the reconstituted medical plan and the $10 million in housing vouchers. The $157 monthly payments are scheduled to end July 1.
"He believes the new restructured program is more cost effective and efficient," she said.
Among the lobbyists yesterday was Jerry Thornton, 30, a homeless Baltimore man who said he can't afford an apartment on his $157 monthly benefit. He has three pins in one leg, the result of a gunshot wound. He also has been diagnosed as suffering from depression.
"I'm not a bad guy, but this will change my attitude toward life," he said of the governor's plan to end the DALP payments. "I'm a time bomb waiting to explode, and on [July] 1st, the fuse gets lit."