Baltimore City is destroying homeless encampments without ending the homelessness of their residents. These actions are inhumane and ineffective. Homelessness can only be ended through the provision of permanent housing and supportive services. Until the City is able to provide appropriate housing and services to encampment residents, the undersigned service providers and advocates will not participate in any activities that further displace and disadvantage our homeless neighbors.
The Journey Home, Baltimore’s plan to make homelessness rare and brief, recognizes that homelessness will persist until affordable housing exists. We are far from meeting The Journey Home’s primary goal:
“To create and maintain a supply of housing sufficient to rapidly re-house homeless individuals and families and meet the needs of those at risk of homelessness; these individuals and families will have access to housing affordable to them in the least restrictive possible environment and will receive the supportive services necessary to remain stably housed.”
Further, The Journey Home board charter calls upon the City to “minimiz[e] the trauma and dislocation that homelessness causes.” The destruction of encampments and involuntary displacement certainly creates trauma for residents and impedes the ability of service providers to implement plans that end homelessness.
We call upon the City to undertake the following to prevent and end homelessness in Baltimore:
• Stop all encampment destruction until permanent supportive housing is secured for residents. Effective outreach starts “where the person is”, which is sometime an encampment, and moves toward available resources and greater stability on the individual’s timeline and terms. Although encampments are not suitable places for people to live, in the absence of adequate permanent supportive housing, encampments provide security and stability for residents, as well as a consistent setting for engagement.
• Remove barriers to existing permanent supportive housing. As The Journey Home Board recognized on July 15, there are significant barriers to securing permanent supportive housing for our most vulnerable neighbors. The City’s Coordinated Access System – including the Baltimore Decision Assessment Tool (BDAT) and Housing Authority of Baltimore City rules and procedures – presents major barriers to housing access; the City must overcome these barriers by implementing the housing first model, requiring rapid access to permanent housing and comprehensive wrap-around services.
• Create and implement a comprehensive affordable housing plan. The City’s Consolidated Plan reports that 45,825 extremely low-income Baltimore households cannot afford their housing each month; this disparity is the fundamental and predominant cause of homelessness. Despite the City’s recognition that “housing cost burden is by far the most common housing problem in Baltimore City,” it has failed to develop an affordable housing plan. Baltimore City must follow the lead of other East Coast cities, and develop and implement an effective plan to create sufficient affordable housing that meets the needs of its impoverished residents with diverse histories and conditions.
• Enhance access to emergency services and shelters for individuals and families with diverse needs. While only housing can end homelessness, shelter remains essential. Baltimore’s shelter capacity is inadequate, in quantity and accessibility, forcing hundreds of people to sleep outdoors. Drawing on the experiences of those who avoid shelters, the City must immediately work to reduce barriers to shelter resources for individuals and families experiencing homelessness.
These actions require genuine partnership across the continuum – and the community. The broad cross-section of providers and advocates listed below commit to working with the City to build such partnerships in our collective effort to prevent and end homelessness in Baltimore.
The following organizations have signed onto this statement:
AIDS Interfaith Residential Services
Baltimore Student Harm Reduction Coalition
Baltimore United Congregations
B’More Housing for All
City Advocates in Solidarity with the Homeless
Empire Homes of Maryland
Faces of Homelessness Speakers Bureau – Baltimore
Govans Ecumenical Development Corporation (GEDCO)
Health Care for the Homeless
Healthcare Access Maryland
Homeless Persons Representation Project
Housing Our Neighbors
Jews United for Justice
Liberty Rec & Tech Center
Maryland Disability Law Center
Maryland Hunger Solutions
Real Care Providers/Belvedere Homes
Right to Housing Alliance
St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore
United Ministries/Earl’s Place
Women’s Housing Coalition
Youth Empowered Society
National Health Care for the Homeless Council
National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty