Dec. 21: Join us for National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day

Every year, on the first night of winter and the longest night of the year, communities across the country gather to honor the lives of community members who experienced homelessness and passed away during the course of the last year. In Baltimore, National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day is hosted by members of Baltimore’s Stop Homelessness And Reduce Poverty (SHARP) Coalition, the Coalition for Homeless Children and Families, and the Baltimore Homeless Youth Initiative (BHYI), and takes place  Sunday, Dec. 21, at 5 p.m. at the Inner Harbor Amphitheater. Please join in this commemoration. Please also tune in to the Marc Steiner Show for a conversation on National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day, Friday, Dec. 20,  10:30-11:30 a.m. 

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Tony Simmons: A “Superhero” Advocating to End Homelessness

Three years ago, Tony Simmons slept on the streets. Today he is one of Maryland’s leading advocates for ending homelessness.File0710

A few years ago Tony overcame drug addiction, but during the struggle he lost everything. He found himself on the street in October of 2011, and by the time Christmas arrived, isolation and hopelessness had driven him to despair.

Two things allowed Tony to overcome the worst crisis of his life:

  • Helping Others: Becoming an advocate

Tony found a reason to keep going each day by making life easier for those around him. Like you and me, he wanted to make sure other people got basic necessities, like shoes, blankets, or a hot meal. His desire to help and make a difference led him to become involved in advocacy efforts, with HCH and other organizations working to create change.

  • “HCH University”: Finding and building community

Just like you, Tony thrives on seeking knowledge and enrichment. He joined the HCH men’s group, art therapy group, and the writers’ group, which he affectionately calls his “HCH University” experience. He also became a leader on the HCH Consumer Relations Committee. Because you support “whole person” care, Tony, and others just like him, take charge of their health and reconnect with social support, employment, and housing.

“Tony is a real life superhero,” says Vanessa, HCH Community Organizer. In November, Tony was nominated by his peers and awarded the 2014 HCH Community Champion Award.

With the help of our strong partners in the community, HCH staff equipped Tony with the resources he needed to triumph in spite of homelessness.  And because our supporters opened the door for Tony, he’s taking action to bring about lasting change. Throughout the year, I’ve had the privilege of serving with Tony on the Governor’s Interagency Council on Homelessness. Whether testifying before the city council, the state legislature, or Congress, Tony is driven to make sure that no one is forgotten.

You can read more about Tony’s heroic advocacy work in the Atlantic Magazine and the Baltimore Sun. And you can listen to a discussion with Tony and other experts about converting Baltimore’s vacant rowhomes into affordable housing on the Marc Steiner Show.

You can make more heroic transformations possible today, with a gift of $50 or more at donate.hchmd.org.

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Thanks for Making the First-Ever HCH 5K a Success!

Thanks to everyone who helped make our first-ever HCH 5K a success! We look forward to building this new tradition for the HCH community. (You can help – click here to give us your feedback).

Despite a somewhat chilly morning, close to 200 runners, joggers, and walkers showed up for friendly competition with friends, family, and fellow HCH supporters.

We were fortunate to have a beautiful sunny day for our race. That means we have some excellent pictures of our racers against the backdrop of Druid Hill Park. If you took pictures, please pass them along via @hchomeless on Twitter, or on the HCH Facebook page.

Overall times are available online. Click here to see where you placed.

Congratulations to David Ringword & John Archibald for setting the 2nd and 4th fastest men’s 5k course records.  Congratulations to HCH Director of Communications Molly Rath & Claire Drigotas for setting the 4th & 5th fastest women’s 5k course records.

A special thank you to Travis Bishop of Bishop’s Events, for organizing the race. Travis will soon a gallery of race pictures on the Bishop’s Events Facebook page, available here.

We look forward to seeing you all again next year!
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2014 Annual Community Meeting: Celebrating Our Extended HCH Family

More than 120 Health Care for the Homeless partners, volunteers, donors, and staff members gathered at 421 Fallsway for the HCH 2014 Annual Community Meeting on Thursday, Nov. 6, to celebrate their collective efforts to prevent and end homelessness for vulnerable individuals and families. In reflecting on the contributions of this vast and growing community in the last year, HCH staff highlighted individual partners and volunteers for their standout work and spirit, naming them the agency’s 2014 Community Champions. Staff also honored fellow staff members who embody the core values that drive HCH employees and their work.

2014 Community Champions

2014 Community Champions

 

 

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Time to Take Action on Affordable Housing: Learning from the Section 8 Lottery

During nine days in October, 74,000 households in Baltimore signed up for a lottery to get on the Section 8 housing voucher waiting list. 25,000 of them will be selected.  Once on the waiting list, the odds are stacked against them; they’ll have a one in four chance of actually getting a voucher over the next six years. In 2020, the lottery for the waiting list opens back up once again.

Many of us—myself included—seized the opportunity to point out both the dystopian nature of this process and the failure of federal policies that drive disinvestment in affordable housing. This morning, the Baltimore Sun published our commentary on the housing lottery, pointing out that something as important as housing shouldn’t be left to chance.

Nevertheless, Health Care for the Homeless stepped up to ensure that everyone who needs housing  got in the lottery.

With two weeks’ notice HCH, along with others in Baltimore’s advocacy and service provider community, rallied to advertise the enrollment window and set up enrollment assistance at eight locations to complement the Housing Authority of Baltimore City’s sites. One of those was here at HCH. And with passion and commitment, our community kicked into gear. We recruited, trained, and encouraged 20 volunteers from all walks of life to help applicants with the web-based application.  We made sure that folks understood what they were—and were not—getting by throwing their hats in the ring.

HCH volunteers worked four-hour shifts during every hour the clinic was open, and signed up 393 households.

Well-executed news stories offer more detail about the lottery enrollment and how it unfolded at HCH and across the city: a WMAR story by Katrina Bush and a Baltimore Sun story in the Sun by Yvonne Wegner.

In true HCH form, our staff and volunteers made us proud. While the lottery enrollment comes with no guarantees, clients who signed up here at HCH left feeling cared for and informed about the process. I want to extend a heart-felt thank you to HCH volunteers and the staff who made this possible—with a very special shout-out to our Volunteer Coordinator Patrick Diamond, who organized and oversaw the HCH effort.

Only good things can flow from this kind of dedication, which makes me incredibly hopeful for our work to prevent and end homelessness moving forward. While such dedication plays out daily here at HCH, last month’s lottery enrollment window offered a very public reminder of what can happen when people come together on behalf of others.

Last month’s lottery enrollment also underscored the need for us to remain resolute in our efforts to reinvest in affordable housing for all who need it. It was a call to action—to keep access to affordable housing front and center on the public radar. In the days and weeks ahead, I hope each of us takes what we learned from the Section 8 lottery enrollment process last month and shares it with a handful of others. We do that, and in pretty short order we become a loud and forceful voice for what is right and fair.

With gratitude for your collective advocacy,

Kevin Lindamood, President & CEO

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The First Ever HCH 5K Race Is Just a Few Days Away!

The first-ever HCH 5K race is almost here. If you haven’t registered, there’s still time: you can sign up here. Your race packet will be available at DruidHCH_5k logo_finals Hill Park on race day.

Day-of registration take place at 8am, November 15; the race starts at 9.

After the race, stay around for the HCH 5k Community Picnic.

Runners and their families can join us near the finish line (Latrobe Pavilion) for food, music and games.

We’ll keep warm with picnic food for purchase – chili (beef, chicken, or veggie) with cornbread  for $2; hot dogs for just $1.

Games include Kan-Jam, Ladder Toss, and Cornhole.

Plus our “Fun Zone” has activities for the whole family including Red Light, Green Light (11am), Simon Says (11:20am), Egg Race (11:40am), 3-Legged Race (12pm), and Potato Sack Race (12:20pm).

We’ll keep you hoppin’ with tunes from DJ Dan Rabbitt!

Register today – proceeds will directly benefit homeless individuals and families in our community.

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The Baltimore Sun: Coverage of the Section 8 Waiting List

October 30 marks the final day in Baltimore’s Section 8 waiting list signup period. The waiting list was last  open over a decade ago, in 2003 – after today it closes until 2020, with no new applicants allowed regardless of changes in income or housing status. For individuals and families adding their names to the online list in the hope of receiving a public housing voucher in Baltimore City, much hangs in the balance.

In a front page article in the Baltimore Sun (available here), reporter Yvonne Wegner succinctly describes the grim numbers involved in the signup period: “In less than a week, more than 58,000 people have signed up for a chance to be randomly selected for a spot on the Housing Authority of Baltimore City’s Section 8 wait list. Only 25,000 will be chosen, and then only 6,000 to 9,000 are expected to receive one of the housing vouchers.”

Among other activists and experts working to raise awareness of both the waiting list and the housing crisis in our area, Wegner interviewed HCH Director of Community Relations Adam Schneider, who commented on the frustration many are feeling: “This whole thing is so dystopian,” Schneider said. “You can imagine Orwell writing about people in desperate need of some basic human need being prioritized and put on waiting lists, and that’s our reality now. How disheartening. We should be ashamed and we should act to change.”

With so little public housing available, and because so many will be unable to apply due to disability or lack of access to the application, the waiting list has been likened to a lottery. Many  see the sign up period as a moment for our community to come to terms with the severity of the lack of affordable housing, and to take action to reverse the trend. As HCH President and CEO Kevin Lindamood put it on the final day of the signup period, “If you believe one thing about homelessness today, believe this: reports of its demise are greatly – and irresponsibly – exaggerated.”

Wegner’s article is additionally useful as a primer for those interested in knowing more about homelessness and affordable housing in Baltimore. The full article is available here.

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HCH and Affordable Housing in The Atlantic Magazine

The Atlantic magazine recently turned to HCH clients and staff, as well as other national and local experts, to investigate the crisis of affordable housing in Baltimore and nationwide. In the first of two pieces published this month, Atlantic reporter Alana Semuels visited some of Baltimore’s vacant rowhouses in the company of Tony Simmons, of Housing Our Neighbors (HON) and the HCH Client Advisory Board. The second installment asked the question, “Should Obamacare Pay for Housing?”

Semuels explains that while 16,000 homes stand vacant in Baltimore, at least 3,000 city inhabitants experience homelessness on a given night because of the dearth of affordable housing available in our markedly affluent state. As she notes, citing the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, “A minimum-wage worker in Maryland would have to work 138 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom unit at fair-market rent.”

One possible means of turning vacant rowhomes into affordable housing is “a community land trust     a non-profit that will hold the title to the land in order to make it permanently affordable.” But proponents of converting vacant homes are worried that before this or any solution can be implemented, developers will transform tracts of abandoned housing in ways that doesn’t incorporate any affordable units.

Semuels’s second article begins with the provocative question of whether “Obamacare” should pay for housing, in order to consider the importance of housing to health care. She speaks with HCH CEO & Kevin Lindamood, who explains that the question is really about our willingness to devote adequate resources to our social support network: “The broader reality is that, as a country, we’re spending roughly 40 percent of what we spent in 1979 before contemporary homelessness. The safety net isn’t there in the way it once was, and there’s not enough housing to go around.”

Within the context of a safety net that ensures a dignified quality of live for everyone, housing is an indispensable component. As HCH Director of Community Relations Adam Schneider points out, our community pays the price for leaving people on the street: for example, shelter accommodation for a family of four costs over $3000 a month. Socially funded housing is, in Schneider’s words, “the far more human, effective, and efficient way.”

A follow-up discussion on housing and health care on the Marc Steiner show on WEAA, prompted by Semuels’s articles, featured commentary from Simmons, former HCH Executive Director Jeff Singer, and Rachel Kutler of United Workers in response to the problems and potential solutions raised by Semuels’s articles. That thought-provoking conversation is available to stream here,

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No Lost Causes – Annual Community Meeting 11/6

It’s time to engage, get energized, and connect with friends who share your vision for a world without homelessness.

Click here to RSVP for the HCH Annual Community Meeting on November 6th, 5:30pm at our clinic (421 Fallsway, Baltimore, MD, 21202).

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Having trouble with our link? Contact Tara with your RSVP at 443-703-1336 or ttharrington@hchmd.org.

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Calling Volunteers! Housing Application Assisters Wanted, October 22-30

For the first time in over a decade, Baltimore City is opening the waiting list for “Section 8” Housing Choice vouchers. Unfortunately it will be open for just 9 days, after which it will close again for the next 6 years. We expect that upwards of 100,000 will attempt to apply during this very brief application window. Want to help? Read below!

Health Care for the Homeless is seeking volunteers to assist clients with applying to be on the waiting list, during the application window from October 22-30. 

Interested? Please fill out the form via this link or let contact HCH Volunteer Coordinator Patrick Diamond at pdiamond@hchmd.org.

The waiting list application is available online and at a few physical locations. Applying will be burdensome not only for people experiencing homelessness, but also for those with limited access to the internet.

Baltimore City will operate a limited number of physical sites where individuals can apply to be on the waiting list. To be clear, submitting this preliminary application does not guarantee that an applicant will receive a voucher.

Nevertheless, it is important that we work together to ensure that as many vulnerable people as possible apply. This is a concrete way that people in our community regain stable housing.

The Application Assister:

  • Educates consumers of the necessity to apply to access a place on the waiting list.
  • Guides consumers through the online application on the Housing Authority’s website.
  • Explains that this application does not entitle the consumer to housing. Instead this application makes an individual eligible for  a “lottery” for the newly reopened “Section 8” Housing Choice Voucher waiting list.
  • Gathers the consumer’s most reliable mailing address. The Housing Authority will only notify beneficiaries via mail.
  • Asks the HCH patients for permission to store their confirmation number in our electronic patient records.
  • Provides receipt of application and conformation number to the consumer.
  • Defaults to a paper application if technological issues occur.

Volunteers fluent in Spanish are particularly encouraged to participate. HCH will provide training sessions and instructions for all assisters.

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