Szeliga hears of ru­ral home­less­ness chal­lenges

Record Observer - - News - By MIKE DAVIS mdavis@kibay­

STEVENSVILLE — Royce Ball with the Mid-Shore Re­cov­er­ing Vet­er­ans Group started the roundtable ex­er­cise at the Kent Is­land Amer­i­can Le­gion re­gard­ing home­less­ness on Mon­day, Oct. 24, ask­ing the group to look at four pic­tures of in­di­vid­u­als and asked which one looks out of place. The point of the ex­er­cise was to show that home­less­ness has no face, no age, gen­der or defin­ing phys­i­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics – it could be any­one.

The group, made up of MidShore or­ga­ni­za­tion lead­ers deal­ing with home­less­ness and low-in­come fam­i­lies, dis­cussed the chal­lenges of get­ting peo­ple off the streets into safe, af­ford­able hous­ing for sus­tained suc­cess.

Kathy Szeliga, the Repub­li­can Mi­nor­ity Whip in the House of Del­e­gates and cur­rent can­di­date for Mary­land U.S. Se­na­tor, took notes and lis­tened to the chal­lenges of ru­ral home­less­ness.

“Ru­ral home­less­ness looks very dif­fer­ent than ur­ban home­less­ness and be­cause of that I think there’s a lot of mis­un­der­stand­ing about it and I think a lot of peo­ple think it doesn’t ex­ist in ru­ral ar­eas be­cause it can be hard to see,” said Krista Pet­tit, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Haven Min­istries Inc., a Queen Anne’s County non­profit that works with home­less­ness.

Pet­tit said peo­ple will of­ten couch surf and through Haven Min­istries’ con­nec­tion of churches through­out the county, it tries and piece it all to­gether. Pet­tit said the non­profit hopes to open a pro­gram deal­ing with un­ac­com­pa­nied high school youth, which she said is a grow­ing pop­u­la­tion in Queen Anne’s County.

“What peo­ple can make or what they can get from pro­grams and the cost of hous­ing in our com­mu­ni­ties is such a dis­crep­ancy peo­ple just can’t make it,” Pet­tit said.

Mar­i­lyn Neal, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Neigh­bor­hood Ser­vice Cen­ter Inc., in Tal­bot County, said keep­ing fam­i­lies “sta­bi­lized” is a big deal. “As im­por­tant as it is for us to house the home­less, it’s equally im­por­tant to keep fam­i­lies from be­com­ing dis­placed and sep­a­rated,” she said.

Neal said last year the or­ga­ni­za­tion worked with ho­tels to house in­di­vid­u­als when noth­ing was lo­cally avail­able. She said one fam­ily stayed at a ho­tel for two months be­cause they didn’t want to dis­place the kids from school and from their fam­i­lies. “It’s so many chal­lenges that come with home­less­ness that I think some of our com­mu­nity just isn’t aware of,” Neal said. “It’s a hard­ship on the chil­dren.”

Neal said as of last Thurs­day, there were 165 home­less youth in Tal­bot County.

“You look at Tal­bot County as be­ing this rich lit­tle area, but then you have that 10 per­cent that is not liv­ing in the same com­po­nent and strug­gling,” Neal said.

Neal and other rep­re­sen­ta­tives at the dis­cus­sion spoke about the lack of af­ford­able hous­ing in the re­gion and the lack of trans­porta­tion, two ma­jor com­po­nents in help­ing home­less in­di­vid­u­als. With­out ex­ist­ing trans­porta­tion or even re­li­able trans­porta­tion, home­less in­di­vid­u­als can find hard­ship in get­ting to and from work. Neal said a woman she is work­ing with got a job in Hur­lock, about 20 min­utes from the shel­ter in Tal­bot County, but no trans­porta­tion is avail­able to get her there. Cur­rently, a re­tired cou­ple, Neal said, is tak­ing her to work.

“We do have good vol­un­teers, but vol­un­teers can’t do it all,” she said.

Bill Sat­ter­field with the Mid-Shore Re­cov­er­ing Vet­er­ans Group said an­other home­less­ness facet is get­ting ser­vices for dis­placed vet­er­ans. Mul­ti­ple nights a week Sat­ter­field said he goes out to in­ter­act with the home­less vet­er­ans to try and gain their trust in hopes he can even­tu­ally lead them to ser­vices.

Theo Wil­liams, Sal­is­bury hous­ing and home­less man­ager, men­tioned the lack of sex of­fender hous­ing in the Mid-Shore re­gion. Wil­liams said many home­less shel­ters do not ac­cept clients with sex of­fense records, and he be­lieves peo­ple with such a record are more danger­ous “on the street than in a struc­tured en­vi­ron­ment.”

Such fa­cil­i­ties can be found in Bal­ti­more City, he said.

The 2015 Mary­land Pointin-Time re­sults gath­ered by the 16 Con­tin­uum of Cares through­out the state counted 158 home­less in­di­vid­u­als in the Mid-Shore CoC. The to­tal home­less pop­u­la­tion from the Point-in-Time study showed 8,392 home­less clients in the state, an in­crease from the previous year.

Point-in-Time cal­cu­la­tions are gath­ered dur­ing one night in Jan­uary an­nu­ally.

The 2015 an­nual re­port, put to­gether by the In­ter­a­gency Coun­cil on Home­less­ness in Novem­ber 2015 cre­ated for the Mary­land Gen­eral As­sem­bly, also showed that home­less­ness among vet­er­ans has in­creased from 673 to 990 from 2013 to 2015. The U.S. Depart­ment of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs said 428,861 to­tal vet­er­ans are in Mary­land, 12 per­cent of whom are home­less.

“The very un­ex­pected joy of run­ning statewide for se­nate is do­ing things like this that are so in­struc­tive, and then I’m able to make changes and talk about them,” Szeliga said. “Whether I win or I don’t win, I know we’re mak­ing an im­pact.”


Kathy Szeliga, can­di­date for the Mary­land U.S. Se­nate seat, lis­tens as rep­re­sen­ta­tives of MidShore or­ga­ni­za­tions talk about ru­ral home­less­ness in a roundtable dis­cus­sion at the Kent Is­land Amer­i­can Le­gion on Mon­day, Oct. 24.

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