The Harford County Health Department will host an open house in Bel Air Thursday for people who have experienced homelessness during the past year.
The open house will be held in conjunction with National Homeless Persons Memorial Day, which is held on the longest night of the year to remember people who died during the past year as a result of being homeless, the health department stated in a news release.
The open house will be held at the department’s Health Services office at 1 N. Main St. in Bel Air from 9 to 4 p.m. and will provide temporary shelter, warm beverages and desserts to attendees, who will also have an opportunity to learn about services available that can assist them. It is not open to the public, Molly Mraz, the health department’s spokesperson, said.
The open house is replacing an annual vigil and memorial service that was held for several years just a block away in the park by the Bel Air Armory.
That event, which was organized by the health department and local organizations that work with the homeless, became mired in controversy last December when one of the homeless people who was memorialized, David Evans, had been responsible for shooting to death two Harford County Sheriff’s Office deputies in February 2016. Evans, who was killed by police responding to the shootings of Senior Deputy Patrick Dailey and Deputy First Class Mark Logsdon, was a drifter and a former Harford resident who had been living out of his car.
“The health services program really wanted to give their homeless clients, or any other homeless individuals in Harford County, the chance to get out of the cold and come in for some shelter and light refreshments,” Mraz explained in an email Monday. She acknowledged the temperatures are likely to be unseasonably warm the day of the open house.
"People experiencing homelessness are three to four times more likely to die prematurely than their sheltered counterparts," Harford Health Officer Dr. Russell Moy said in a statement. "This observance brings attention to the tragedy of homelessness and serves as a call to action to end homelessness both locally and nationwide."
Initiated by Harford County's Health Care for the Homeless Project in 2007, this will be the 11th year that Harford County is participating in the national recognition of Homeless Persons Memorial Day, according to the health department’s news release.
Health Care for the Homeless, in partnership with the health department, “provides a comprehensive system of health-related services to reduce the incidence and burdens of homelessness in Harford County,” the news release states.
HCH offers pediatric and adult primary medical care, in addition to case management services, at the Bel Air Main Street location to all persons who are or during the past year have lacked a fixed, regular and/or adequate residence.