A 33-year-old homeless man was found dead on the streets of Bethesda days before he was set to move into permanent housing, according to advocacy group
Christopher Page, a Bethesda Cares client, was found dead May 27. He died of ethanol and methadone intoxication, according to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore.
Page was set to sign off on the paperwork for his new apartment in Wheaton June 4.
An Army veteran, Page suffered from mental health and substance abuse issues, and had been living on the streets for about seven years, according to Bethesda Cares outreach specialist John Mendez. In Bethesda, Page usually slept near Cordell Avenue and Wisconsin Avenue.
Recently, however, Page had received a housing voucher through the HUD-VASH program, which supports homeless veterans, Mendez said.
“Chris had seen the apartment and liked it, and the landlord had approved him,” Mendez told Patch. “The housing voucher had already been issued by HOC, and he was going to get his key and sign his lease.”
Page was a part of Bethesda Cares’ as a part of 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 resources and assist them into permanent housing.
The initiative focuses on placing the most vulnerable “chronically homeless” – those most at risk of dying on the street -- into permanent housing, rather than shelters or substance abuse programs.
Advocates have argued that the "housing first" approach is the most effective way to combat street homelessness.
After Bethesda Cares conducted outreach work with Page and determined he was eligible for HUD-VASH about four months ago, the VA and the county’s Housing Opportunities Commission partnered to issue him the voucher, Mendez said, "probably the fastest I've seen a homeless veteran issued a voucher in the times since we've had HUD-VASH."
But Page didn’t show up the day he was set to sign his lease, and Mendez couldn’t find him on Bethesda’s streets. Later that day, the Bethesda Cares team learned that he had passed away.
“This tragic situation just goes to highlight how much more medically vulnerable these people are when they’re out there in the elements, dealing with issues like substance abuse,” Mendez said.