This month, non-profits across Maryland learned that the modest state funding they receive to run homelessness prevention programs will be cut off at the end of March. The decision to eliminate the Service-Linked Housing Program (SLHP) funding will have a devastating impact.
SLHP works to stabilize the living situations of vulnerable Marylanders at risk of homelessness. Non-profits in 13 jurisdictions receive funds to employ resident advocates who connect their clients with critical support services -- both public and private -- that keep them stably housed. During the 2009 fiscal year, the program assisted almost 3,000 Marylanders, including seniors, those with physical and mental disabilities, victims of domestic abuse, families and veterans.
Eliminating SLHP may save the state $1.1 million, but Maryland will lose much more than $1.1 million in services. SLHP funds have been used to attract foundation grants. Without state funding, these grants disappear -- along with the services they pay for. Moreover, without the preventative services provided by SLHP, many clients will be forced to enter shelters, hospitals and other expensive institutions at a significant cost to the state. This is not to mention the fact that service providers will be out of work.
The economy may be turning around, but every day we hear of Marylanders who are on the verge of losing their homes, who cannot pay their energy bills, and who have recently lost their jobs. This is not the time to eliminate a program that keeps Marylanders in their homes.
Brandon McLeod, Baltimore
The writer is chairman of the Maryland Alliance for the Poor.