Montgomery Co. rolls out plan to end homelessness

Homelessness is on the decline in Montgomery County, Maryland, but local leaders say there’s still a lot of work to be done and have a goal to eradicate it in the county completely by 2023.

In 2009, there were 1,194 people impacted by homelessness. That number dropped to 647 last year.

Nationally, in 2018, there were nearly 600,000 homeless people, and 33% of them were people in families with children. Last year, that number was down to 12%.

“We’re heading in the right direction, we’ve virtually eliminated veterans’ homelessness,” Council member Will Jawando said.

Despite drops, there is still a serious concern for seniors who face homelessness across the county. There has also been an increase in homelessness among those with disabilities. Racial disparities have also raised concern.

“African Americans, for example, are making up 64%-plus of the homeless population, even though only accounting for 19% of the population,” Jawando said.

Now, the Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee is working with Human and Health Services Committee to implement a new strategic plan.

The focus will be on working with community organizations, local law enforcement and hospitals.

Jawando said rehousing is also a proven strategy the county will continue to focus on.

The six-part strategy:

1. Address racial disparities

2. Build and support strong and adaptable programs

3. Affordable housing

4. Coordinate across other systems

5. Increase and diversify funding

6. Educate and advocate for change

This year, officials plan to focus on providing racial equity training and exploring reasons for entering homelessness and how race plays a role. Community members are also encouraged to join the effort.

“If they see somebody and they’re comfortable … they should report it to the Department of Health and Human Services or our council offices so that we can try to address and get services to those people,” Jawando said.

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