Cooperating to aid the homeless


Almost as important as the $11 million in new federal grants Maryland has obtained to aid homeless people is the way the money was sought. With a 45-day deadline staring them in the face, state officials put together an application combining the needs of 18 jurisdictions with significant homeless populations. Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend was right in thinking the state would be more successful submitting a single application.

Maryland was among the top 10 recipients to receive portions of $900 million in available grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Applications came from all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. You can add to the state's total an additional $14 million that will go to homeless programs in Baltimore, which in cooperation with the state made separate applications for the HUD homeless grants.

Harriet Goldman, director of homeless services, said the state Department of Human Resources has been the focal point for coordinating homeless services since 1984. She said DHR staffers worked hundreds of hours during evenings and on weekends to coordinate the application efforts of smaller agencies across the state. Considerable assistance was provided by the housing department and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The Shelter Care Plus program will give $5.5 million to the health department and $8.5 million to Baltimore City. Joanne Selinske, director of the Mayor's Office of Homeless Services, said that money will provide rent subsidies to 246 disabled persons who are homeless. There are about 50 people in the city receiving such assistance now and funds had already been granted to serve 300 additional homeless disabled persons.

But that total still leaves a lot of people without help. There were 18,000 clients at the city's four dozen homeless shelters last year and probably half could be described as disabled and homeless.

The city also received $6 million for its supportive housing program. Columbia, Rockville, Bethesda, Prince Frederick and Westminster will share $5 million an additional in supportive housing funds. Those funds will be used to help homeless families make the transition to living independently again. The sponsoring agencies will help clients move out of shelters into apartments.

The new HUD funds for the homeless are needed more than ever with the decision of Gov. Parris N. Glendening to end the Disability Assistance Loan Program. That void remains unfilled.

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