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Survey Finds Dozens of 'Medically Vulnerable' Homeless People in Montgomery County

In a recent survey of Montgomery County's homeless population, 159 people (43 percent of those surveyed) were considered "medically vulnerable," according to a 100,000 Homes Campaign report.

An apparently homeless person camps out in a bus shelter on the west side of Wisconsin Avenue at South Park Avenue, Chevy Chase, Oct. 22, 2013. This part of town is known as the "Rodeo Drive of the East Coast." Patch file photo by Laura L. Thornton.
An apparently homeless person camps out in a bus shelter on the west side of Wisconsin Avenue at South Park Avenue, Chevy Chase, Oct. 22, 2013. This part of town is known as the "Rodeo Drive of the East Coast." Patch file photo by Laura L. Thornton.

More than 300 volunteers canvassed streets in Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Silver Spring and other parts of the county during pre-dawn hours last month to survey the county's homeless population during the 100,000 Homes Campaign Registry Week, according to the campaign.

In all, 369 homeless people were surveyed. Volunteers used a "vulnerability index" to determine a homeless person's risk of dying if he or were to remain homeless. Areas surveyed included Rockville, Aspen Hill, Gaithersburg, Germantown, White Flint, Silver Spring, Bethesda, Wheaton, Glenmont, Langley Park, Chevy Chase, Hillandale and White Oak, the campaign reported.

Here are the results, reported by the 100,000 Homes Campaign:

Homeless population
  • 431 homeless individuals identified
  • 369 surveys completed; 62 individuals declined to be surveyed
  • 270 males and 99 females completed surveys
  • 159 (43 percent) of those surveyed were considered medically vulnerable

Age

  • Average age was 45.6 years old
  • 9 percent (32 individuals) were under the age of 25
  • 24 percent (88 individuals) were over the age of 55
  • 4 percent (15 individuals) were over the age of 65

Health conditions and hospitalizations

  • 47 percent reported at least one serious health condition—of this group, 74 percent were medically vulnerable and had a higher likelihood of dying in a state of homelessness
  • 23 percent were characterized as tri-morbid, meaning that they had a mental health diagnosis, a physical health condition and an active history of substance abuse—of this group, the average length of time being homeless was six years
  • The 369 individuals surveyed reported a total of 677 inpatient hospitalizations in the past year
  • 22 percent of those surveyed received inpatient emergency room treatment at least 3 times last year—of those identified as medically vulnerable, more than 50 percent received inpatient treatment at least three times last year

Other

  • 31 individuals reported being veterans
  • 26 percent of those surveyed were victims of violent attacks while experiencing homelessness
Volunteers from the Montgomery County 100,000 Homes Campaign—a local partnership that includes the Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless (MCCH), the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services and other government agencies, nonprofits and organizations—helped with the surveying process.

"There was an overwhelming response of volunteer service from the community and campaign partners to make our Registry Week a success," 100,000 Homes Campaign Manager Herb Smith said in a statement.

"Montgomery County continues to show that there is nothing stronger then a unified, focused community that realizes a problem anywhere in Montgomery County is a problem everywhere in Montgomery County," Smith said.

Montgomery County Council's recently elected President Craig Rice was among the volunteers.

Rice found one man wearing a T-shirt in 34-degree weather. He was coughing and hacking, Rice said.

"There’s no question to me that that man is not going to survive this winter if we don’t intervene and get him help. It is life or death," he said.

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