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The Homeless Gazette
Grassroots Day Resource Center
A homeless survey conducted by the Local Board on Homelessness in September 2007 revealed at least 30 and possibly as many as 50 homeless persons living along the Rt 1 corridor without shelter. In December, advocates from the Board organized a pilot Homeless Outreach Project to determine the numbers, locations and needs of this population.
As a start, volunteers from two churches delivered food once weekly to homeless individuals and families on the street, in cars, vacant moving vans, and makeshift camps. It soon became apparent that in addition to food, these persons needed shelter from the elements, clothing, medical and mental health treatment, basic hygiene items, and access to social services. Volunteers responded to these needs as they appeared. News of the project quickly spread by word of mouth to both the homeless and other churches. By early February there were 30 churches and businesses involved, providing food three times weekly to as many as 35 persons.
The outreach determined that many of the homeless persons are unable or unwilling to access the social services system that might help them. Some suffer from mental illness that makes them unable to comprehend the process or trust the service providers. Some have tried to navigate through the system before and failed. Some are suffering from addictions that prevent them from setting any long term goals. Most are unable to access services because they do not have identification cards or Social Security cards and lack the money, communications, transportation and mailing address required to get a birth certificate, the first step in re-establishing official identity. Without ID they cannot be permanently employed. So they are stuck at the bottom; the first rung of the social services ladder out of reach. In some cases they have lost hope of ever improving their lot in life.
With enthusiastic support from the churches, local government and foundations, the Grassroots Day Resource Center was opened in July 2008 to better serve this population. The Center provides showers, laundry, clothing, internet access, phone, mailing address, basic living supplies, conversation and referrals to social services. The homeless consumers were involved in determining the services, hours of operation and policies. The Center is operated under the auspices of Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center, staffed by volunteers and guided by a project coordinator. In the first 3 months over 140 individuals were served.
By January of 2009, the Center had served over 250 individuals with numbers fluctuating between 35 and 70 a day. Over 40 different congregations are involved in supplying volunteers, food, supplies, funding and other resources. Our services have grown to include a doctor and a nurse who are helping us to address the myriad of health issues and a lawyer who is available once a week for consultation with clients.
The impact of the homeless outreach project so far is best illustrated by the stories:
A woman with three children living in a motel was scheduled for surgery but did not seek help because she feared her children would be taken from her. She had a Section 8 voucher but was unable to look for an apartment. A church watched over the children during the surgery, helped the mother find an apartment, cleaned it and moved her in. Her son was helped to enroll in a GED program. Grassroots coordinated needed funding to pay for the security deposit and temporary motel stay.
An unemployed woman was living in her inoperative car and had declined access to the temporary winter shelter because she did not know anyone there. A church found a mechanic who had the car towed and repaired at minimal cost which was paid by donated funds. After developing a relationship with a volunteer, the woman accepted shelter space when it became available and now seeking employment.
Three men suffering from mental illness were offered appointments with a psychiatrist for evaluation and prescriptions. All were restored to normal activity through medication and counseling.
Seven persons were assisted in obtaining ID and Social Security cards, an essential step to accessing social services and employment.
Six persons have been assisted in entering transitional housing programs at Grassroots or Domestic Violence Center.
Initial funding for the outreach project was provided by the Department of Citizen Services, The Horizon Foundation, Columbia Foundation, and United Way of Central Maryland.
40 churches and businesses have provided volunteers, food, or financial support.
Grassroots has conducted I.D. clinics, provided hot line phone service and acts as the fiscal agent,
The Howard County Health Department has assisted in arranging ongoing health services at Chase Brexton.
The Howard Count Mental Health Authority has assisted in obtaining psychiatric care and medication.
The Howard County Department of Housing and Community Development has committed half the first year funding for the Center.
Department of Social Services has established liaison through the North Laurel-Savage Multiservice Center.
The Day Resource Center is located at 8826 Washington Blvd, Jessup 20794 , on the west side of US 1 between Guilford Road and MD 32. There is a Comfort Inn on the south side and a BP gas station on the north side. It is directly across Rt 1 from the Salvation Army Donation Center.
From Columbia or Ellicott City, take US 29 or I-95 south to MD 32 East. Follow the Elkridge direction to Rt 1 North. After passing the MD 32 intersection and the Comfort Inn, turn left to the parking lot on the north side of the Center.
Via US 1 from the north, pass Guilford Road and the BP station, then turn right into the parking lot on the north side of the Center or additional parking on the south side.
Via US 1 from the south, pass MD 32 and the Comfort Inn, then turn left into the parking lot on the north side of the Center.
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