Bethesda Cares Develops By-Name Registry Of Homeless
Bethesda is the 100th community to sign on to the 100,00 Homes Campaign.
A Bethesda homeless outreach group is leading an effort to catalog and collect information about those living on the streets in Bethesda as part of a national housing initiative.
Bethesda is the 100th community to sign on to the 100,000 Homes Campaign, a nationwide effort aimed to house 100,000 of the most vulnerable homeless individuals by July of 2013. The campaign tasks communities with creating a by-name registry of homeless individuals in order to help service providers match them with local, state and federal resources, with an ultimate goal of placing them in permanent housing.
“These are not shelter beds – these are permanent apartments where you can lock the door,” said Jake Maguire, a spokesman for the campaign. So far, the effort has placed 11,225 people in permanent housing across the country. “That is really the only solution to homelessness that’s been shown to work.”
Lead locally by Bethesda Cares, the campaign is aimed to prioritize those who are the most medically vulnerable -- those who are most at risk of dying on the street, according to John Mendez, Bethesda Cares outreach social worker.
“By vulnerable, we’re really talking about the people who have been out on the streets a long time and are unlikely to get off without some strategic help,” Maguire said.
The chronically homeless often have daunting barriers when it comes to getting help, like substance abuse or mental illness, and the population spiked 91 percent in Montgomery County from 2010 to 2011, according to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments – the largest jump in the metro area. The effort is a "direct response to the emerging crisis," according to a Bethesda Cares press release.
Housing for the chronically homeless has been a part of the local dialogue in recent months, especially following the opening of a permanent housing complex for the formerly homeless on Hampden Lane. Bethesda Cares said not enough of the most medically vulnerable living on the streets in Bethesda were placed in the units there.
In Bethesda, the campaign canvassing effort began Monday at 4a.m. Volunteers from community groups and organizations took to the streets, collecting information from the homeless about health problems, drug or alcohol abuse, mental illness, length of time out on the street, and whether or not the homeless individual is a veteran, Mendez said.
Volunteers took to the streets again Tuesday and Wednesday, and the canvas is expected to be completed this week, Mendez said.
By Tuesday evening, the group of about 35 volunteers had cataloged about 30 homeless individuals in Bethesda, North Bethesda and a portion of Silver Spring, Mendez said. One man, in his late 30s, reported living on the streets since his late teens, Mendez said.
On Nov. 14, the group is expected to present an electronic database of their findings to the community, and then begin the work of matching each individual with resources tailored to their needs. Information such as whether the individiual has served in a war, for example, is useful in helping match those on the street with federal housing resources for veterans, Maguire said.
“We’re going to use this data to fine tune our services and begin the advocacy efforts and coordination to assist these individuals into housing,” Mendez said. "We’ll report back to the community in six-month intervals – out of those 40 people who were surveyed, this is how many received housing. What we don’t want to say is how many people passed away."
While coordinating resources can be a challenge, Bethesda is well-placed to lead a successful campaign, Maguire said -- in large part because of the dedicated people behind it.
“I think it takes some real work to try to get your hands on some of these resources and match them effectively to people on the ground, and that’s what campaign communities are committed to doing,” Maguire said.