On April 24, Health Care for the Homeless will partner with Chef’s Expressions and Chef Jerry Edwards for a “Journey with Jerry” Wine Supper. Chef Edwards will guide guests through some of his favorite food and wine pairings from around the world. The event will be hosted at Gramercy Mansion, from 6-9pm.
Tickets are $120: 10% of the proceeds will go to benefit HCH.
Health Care for the Homeless extends a much-deserved thank you to the generous volunteers of Constellation Energy. Dozens of men and women from Constellation joined with HCH staff and clients on April 11 to recognize National Volunteer Month with a “Free Market.”
Volunteers provide essential items such as clothing and hygiene kits.
Friday was the third consecutive day that Constellation volunteers offered their time to lend a hand at HCH. On Wednesday and Thursday they helped us to paint our flowerpots. They returned Friday for another major project, and made this beautiful Spring day special for our clients and staff by holding a one-day Free Market.
Dozens of clients lined up in anticipation of the Free Market.
At the Free Market, clients received essential items such as clothing, blankets, hygiene kits, strollers, and handbags. We were fortunate to have warm and sunny weather, as clients lined up outside to gain access to the market, held in our capacious garage bay. By the end of the day, 300 of our homeless neighbors had been served by volunteers.
Of course, it’s also important during Volunteer Month to keep in mind how much more needs to be done in our community. We shouldn’t forget that the overwhelming response to our Free Market by clients and other community members is itself a demonstration of the extent of the need that exists here in Maryland.
On the other hand, it is a good feeling when we can come together to provide immediate aid to our neighbors. Our Free Market met important needs for vulnerable people in our community. We are greatly appreciative to have partners such as the volunteers of Constellation Energy, who have made this April a truly memorable National Volunteer Month.
On April 9th and 10th, Health Care for the Homeless was fortunate to host an energetic group of volunteers from Constellation Energy. They helped beautify our gigantic flowerpots: now the pots reflect the bright, welcoming colors of the HCH mural.
Constellation volunteers hard at work.
Although the unpainted, white pots inspired more puzzlement than admiration, we are actually fondly attached to them. They were put there by the late Rick Baier, the general contractor who oversaw construction of our new facility. The smaller pots we’d agreed upon were backordered. So Rick took the initiative, and took the opportunity to play a practical joke that would last for years to come. He bought the giant pots you see today, and for safe measure bolted them into the sidewalk.
Sadly, just a few months after the completion of the new HCH building, Rick was diagnosed with cancer. Not long after his diagnosis, Rick passed away. He was a great man with an amazing personality, and as a former addictions counselor he had a genuine understanding of the HCH mission and the spirit of our organization. In our atrium, which he helped design, there is a plaque in his honor. But we remember him as well every time we walk by these flowerpots, Rick’s last practical joke.
Constellation volunteers applying the HCH logo.
Thanks to Constellation Energy’s volunteers for their help in brightening up our facility! Today they’ll continue their amazing work, with a Free Market to provide clothing and supplies to our clients.
The following remarks on the issue of homelessness were delivered by Health Care for the Homeless President & CEO Kevin Lindamood at the Waterfront Marriott on February 15, 2014, during The HCH Chocolate Affair. This followed a keynote address by Brandon, an HCH client and participant in the “Faces of Homelessness” Speakers’ Bureau. Brandon ended his presentation with the Maya Angelou poem “Alone.”
Alone in community. What a contradiction. Except for having each other Dee and Reggie woke up every morning feeling alone in community.
Dee and Reggie. Reggie and Dee. We rarely saw one without the other. The couple had lived with Reggie’s mother to care for her during a lengthy illness. After her death, the house was taken over unpaid ground rent. And Dee and Reggie turned to the streets, unwilling to separate to find shelter.
Four years. That’s how long they subsisted on whatever they could chase down from local service providers, moving their bedroll from one location to another. You might have seen them on the front porch of Health Care for the Homeless. If you commute downtown the way I do you might have passed right over them without even knowing they were there as they slept against the concrete columns that hold up the Jones Falls Expressway.
Once I saw Reggie without Dee and it was such an alarming sight that I asked him about it. Reggie, where’s your wife? “Oh, she’s real sick,” he replied, pointing across the street to their bedroll under the expressway where Dee’s foot emerged from an enormous pile of blankets. She wound up in the hospital later that day.
After years of outreach and a housing voucher from the City of Baltimore, Dee and Reggie moved into their own home last year on the first day of spring. Now, I promise you we’re just a few weeks away from spring again – and Dee and Reggie are still housed today.
We celebrate these triumphs tonight – Brandon’s triumph. Dee and Reggie’s triumph.
But in this Health Care for the Homeless community we must never forget that our work exists at the intersection of triumph and very real tragedy.
You’ve heard us say that people experiencing homelessness are sicker than their housed counterparts and die prematurely because of it. These are far more than mere slogans and statistics.
Late last month a U.S. Military veteran who slept, hidden, in the supportive beams of a bridge, who was working, saving for a place to stay, came into our clinic in the days after that first polar vortex with severe frost bite of both hands and both feet.
Two weeks ago a nine month old girl living with her family in a homeless shelter passed away in a local hospital from the flu.
We stare into the face of preventable tragedy every day. We can be deterred by it. Or we can be motivated to change what we find. Already, our staff are seeking ways to ensure that all kids experiencing homelessness have flu vaccines every year. And the veteran? He’s safe in shelter, his condition has improved steadily with nursing care, and he’s been connected for ongoing treatment with the VA.
We stand together at the intersection of tragedy and triumph in full defiance of two widely held misconceptions about homelessness. The first is that homelessness is complex and difficult to solve.
Look, human lives are complicated. Congress – I think we might all agree – is a bit baffling. But understanding homelessness and how to end it? Surprisingly simple:
Four things: Affordable housing, comprehensive health care, an income, and a supportive community. Every transition from tragedy to triumph that comes out of our work has these four things in common.
Secondly, we must all reject the notion that some tragedies are simply too far gone. That we can actually label a person as a “lost cause.” Let’s all agree on this:
No one who served our country in uniform is a lost cause.
No child is a lost cause.
Brandon was not a lost cause.
Dee and Reggie were not lost causes.
Of the 10,000 people you helped us serve last year in Baltimore and the surrounding counties – people struggling to support themselves and their families: not a single lost cause among them.
Let me leave you with this: Last week, I saw Dee on our front porch. I was heading out to a meeting; she was coming in. We stopped to greet each other and I asked her how she’s been. She said what we all say these days about this never ending winter, mentioned that she’d had a bad cold, and, pointing to the person next to her, said that her neighbor kindly drove her down for her doctor’s appointment. As we parted ways, I called back over my shoulder: “Hey, Dee. Where’s Reggie?”
“Oh, he’s real sick,” she said. “He’s got whatever I had.” And then she said five simple words I’ll never forget. This is what she said:
Many people turned out yesterday in Annapolis to testify to House of Delegates Economic Matters Committee. Fran Pruce, CFO and COO for Health Care for the Homeless, was one of them, emphasizing HCH’s own minimum wage of $16 an hour. Here’s her testimony—it speaks for itself why raising the wage is good for business and good for the community.
Good evening. My name is Fran Pruce and I am the Chief Operating and Financial Officer at Health Care for the Homeless of Maryland. I have an MBA from the U of MD Smith School and a 30-year background exclusively in the corporate and for-profit financial services area. I am now part of an extraordinary team with strong and principled leadership by CEO Kevin Lindamood.
HCH is a $15M non-profit organization with approximately 140 employees. We’ve been around for nearly 30 years and provide integrated health care and supportive services through the nearly 80,000 visits annually to our clinic. Historically our revenue stream has come primarily from grant funding. This is changing with the arrival of Health Reform and Medicaid Expansion which will directly benefit the vulnerable population we serve.
Let me tell you our view of minimum wage. As we undertook last year’s budget process, we made a strategic decision to establish a wage floor at HCH that would achieve multiple objectives we had established as an agency. For 2014 that wage floor is $16 an hour which annualizes to an income of $33,280. We have budgeted and planned financially in such a way that this is affordable, sustainable, and even with time, increasable.
Why has HCH made this commitment? As an organization, we reject the claim that raising the minimum wage is bad for business. In fact, what we are seeing is the opposite: it is good for our staff, good for our clients, good for our organization, and good for our community. This policy:
Strengthens our workforce
Stabilizes our salary infrastructure
Allows us to attract and retain great folks
Boosts employee morale
Improves the personal/home situation for many
Alleviates the necessity to juggle multiple jobs
Reduces staff turnover
Fits within our agency’s budget and financial plan
Is aligned with our Strategic Plan goal of investing in our people
Allows us NOT to have to choose between doing what is socially and ethically right with what is economically viable; and lastly and perhaps most importantly,
Enables us to deliver the highest quality of care to those who need it most in a financially responsible, cost-contained, well-managed way.
In summary, we at HCH believe that raising the minimum wage is a reasonable and right investment which benefits our staff, our clients, our organization, our community, and ultimately us all in the State of Maryland.
HCH is hiring primary care providers, nurses, behavioral health providers, and people to work in other clinical and administrative positions. We hire a diverse range of staff from a variety of professional backgrounds, and recent experience in an FQHC and/or a Patient Centered Medical Home is a plus.
If you’re interested in working with 100+ people who believe in our mission and are proud of their interdisciplinary work to end homelessness, please visit our Employment Page.
I’m one of those guys who wears his heart on his lapel and his bumper. Prominently displayed “Health Care is a Human Right” button: check. “Housing is Health Care and Both are Human Rights” bumper sticker from the National Health Care for the Homeless Council: check. Once there was a time when I had so many of those buttons in my desk drawer that whenever anyone admired the one I was wearing I immediately moved it from my lapel to theirs and replaced my own when I got back to the office. I was a zealous evangelist of the human rights gospel.
So imagine my alarm when a few weeks ago I felt compelled to remove my lapel pin and place it back in the drawer for safe keeping. I was reading an online news article about a city council attempt to tighten what’s already among the toughest anti-begging laws on the books, when, in the accompanying photo, I recognized with a modicum of pride a Health Care for the Homeless social work intern protesting outside City Hall with a “Housing is a Human Right” sign. A local student group had joined with people experiencing homelessness to work against the latest volley of restrictive panhandling legislation. Against my better judgment, my eyes fell to the bottom of the screen to read the string of “drive-by,” anonymously-posted ad hominems and non sequiturs that so often accompany 21st Century reporting.
“Drew57” posted one of the first comments – a “note to the kid holding the sign” – asserting definitively that housing was “not,” in fact, “a human right,” before musing that officials should simply say no to the “Marxists and lazy bums that cripple the city.”
Normally, I’d chalk up such a comment to what my coworker labels an irrelevant data point and move on, but for some reason this one gave me pause. Unfounded stereotypes aside, I had to concede the first point to our drive-by interlocutor. He’s correct. Housing isn’t a human right in the United States. And we needn’t look far for proof of it: Decades-long waiting lists for subsidized housing; a HUD budget that’s roughly 40% of what it was more than three decades ago; a private housing market that prices out families earning more than twice our meager federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. The very persistence of contemporary homelessness – at levels unseen since the Great Depression – affirms the troubling absence of such a right.
“Nor is health care,” chimed in Oz321. This one particularly stung, but score another for our nameless commentators. (And here’s the point at which I removed my lapel button.) Don’t get me wrong: we’ve done great things with the Affordable Care Act: No more exclusions for pre-existing conditions; subsidies to lower the cost of coverage; and the most significant expansion of Medicaid since the program was created in 1965 – particularly beneficial for people experiencing homelessness. But nothing we’ve yet accomplished has made health care a right. Undocumented people: Nothing. Low-income Americans living in half the states that still haven’t expanded Medicaid: Zip. Folks that still can’t afford private-sector coverage: Sorry. Some analysts project that even after full implementation of the Affordable Care Act as many as 30 million people may go without coverage. And, much to the horror of our industrialized neighbors, health problems can still lead to personal bankruptcy and homelessness. So by my count that’s at least 30,000,001 reasons we can’t yet consider health care a human right.
Last month I stood at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor on National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day to remember 105 people who died prematurely in 2013 without a stable place to call “home.” They joined a list of thousands commemorated in similar services across the country. I couldn’t help but think of the “inalienable rights” a small band of American revolutionaries envisioned more than two hundred years ago: Life. Liberty. The pursuit of happiness. Clearly the people whose memories we honored on December 21 were alienated even from these most basic of rights. I can think of no more foundational a way to secure them than to enact public policies that guarantee each of us access to comprehensive health care, decent and affordable housing, and wages high enough to keep us out of homeless shelters.
You might say I believe in the idea of human rights if not the timeless existence of them. For our friends and neighbors experiencing homelessness, claims of “human rights” ring hollow when we haven’t yet enacted and enforced the public policies necessary to attain them. Indeed, a human rights approach to public policy – applied universally – is perhaps our only hope of ending homelessness for good. (And, please, let’s hurry up about it. It’s been so many years that I don’t even want to think about what it’ll take to peel that sticker off my bumper.)
JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.
A so-called polar vortex has brought record low temperatures from the Midwest to the East Coast. With wind chills reported as low as -70 degrees, many cities, like Baltimore, issued special advisories for their homeless populations, making emergency services and shelters available.
Now joining us to discuss this is Adam Schneider. He’s the director of community relations for Health Care for the Homeless here in Baltimore.
Thank you so much for joining us.
ADAM SCHNEIDER, DIRECTOR OF COMMUNITY RELATIONS, HEALTH CARE FOR THE HOMELESS: Thank you.
NOOR: So, Adam, talk about what these record low temperatures mean for the homeless today. We know here in Baltimore at least 3,000 people are homeless every night. The highs on Tuesday are expected to be in the teens.
SCHNEIDER: Yeah. I mean, the experience of homelessness is one that is very difficult to survive. People experiencing homelessness are three to four times more likely to die prematurely than their housed counterparts. And temperatures like this, weather like this is really–it’s really unbearable. And so it’s laudable that there are these emergency responses that are intended to help people get off the streets, at least for the time being, when the weather’s so terrible.
NOOR: And so this response involves either optional or mandatory placement into homeless shelters. Talk about what this means and if this is an effective solution.
SCHNEIDER: Well, I mean, it’s not an effective solution to the problem of homelessness, but it is an effective response to the immediate need. Right? The immediate need tonight is to ensure that there are places for people to go anytime tonight so that they don’t freeze to death on our streets.
An effective response to homeless is to ensure that adequate housing is available for people, to ensure that people’s incomes are livable, to ensure that there are supportive services, health services, the things that all of us need in order to maintain ourselves into housing.
But that’s the discussion that we need to have had yesterday. That’s the discussion that we need to be having tomorrow and the next day. Today, it’s really important that we be having this discussion about how to ensure that people are able to get off the streets and into places that are warmer and safer.
NOOR: And on that point, cities like Baltimore have at least 10,000 vacant homes. The actual number might be many times that amount. Talk about why this issue of homelessness exists in this country we live in, the wealthiest country in history.
SCHNEIDER: Yeah. Well, I mean, homelessness, you know, many people don’t remember a time that there wasn’t mass homelessness, but for people who are a little bit older, they’ll remember a time when there wasn’t this number of people, there wasn’t such a diverse cross-section of people experiencing homelessness.
Homelessness fundamentally is caused by policy decisions–most importantly, policy decisions that have led to stagnant, in fact, reduced wages over time and a real disinvestment in affordable housing. So that’s fundamentally the causes.
Now, there are, you know, tens of thousands of vacant buildings in Baltimore City. I’m sure that there are people who are going to be spending the night in those buildings tonight, as there are many nights. You know. So when we talk about the number of people experiencing homelessness, the number of people who need shelters, you know, oftentimes it’s an undercount. Right? There are people who are doubled up with family and friends tonight. Tomorrow, who knows? There are people who are sleeping in abandoned buildings who weren’t counted the last time we did homeless census.
So it’s really, you know, important that we be doing everything we can to expand, as much as we can, the emergency shelter today, and then ensuring that there’s an adequate supply of affordable housing tomorrow and in the future.
NOOR: And so just in the last few weeks and months, we’ve seen food stamps cut, unemployment benefits that expired. Federal sequestration has hit many agencies that provide services for the homeless, that provide housing, federal housing programs. Yet you still see reports claiming that homelessness is in decline. What’s your response?
SCHNEIDER: Well, I think that–a couple of responses. I think that in this, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, the fact that we would cut food subsidies for people who are poor, for poor kids, many of them, is really beyond the pale. I mean, it makes us–we should be thinking, who are we, when we’re allowing–when our leaders are making these sorts of decisions.
You know, the idea that homelessness is in the decline is something that I’ve read and seen. I think it’s highly dubious. You mentioned cuts to food stamps. You mentioned cuts through sequestration. You mentioned cuts as a result of unemployment benefits not being extended.
I mean, homelessness is largely the result of cuts to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s budget over the past 40 years. So today HUD’s budget is about 40 percent of what it was in 1979. Cuts through the Carter administration, the Reagan administration, the Bush administration, the Clinton administration, the Bush administration, the Obama administration–we haven’t even gotten back to where we were in 1979. And that disinvestment in affordable housing at the federal level has ripple effects at the state and local level. In Baltimore City, you know, we’ve seen the demolition of large swaths, 40 percent–over 40 percent of the once occupied public housing units have been demolished in Baltimore City. And that’s not unique. Nationally, this is what’s happening.
At the same time as we are reducing the supply of housing affordable to people who are very poor, we are increasing the number of people who are very poor. Wages are stagnant. People who have disabilities are living on, you know, a paltry amount that isn’t enough to rent an affordable–a efficiency unit. Even the minimum wage, the federal minimum wage, there’s not a single jurisdiction in the United States where a minimum-wage worker working full-time can afford housing at the fair market rent.
So it’s all of these things that create homelessness and have created homelessness over the past 40 years. And that’s what we need to be focused on, as I say, going forward. Today it’s really important that we focus on getting people off the streets and making sure that there are places that people can go that they feel safe, that they feel respected. But tomorrow and in the future we need to worry about not just how to manage this problem, which we’ve been doing for 40 years, but really how to end it.
NOOR: Adam Schneider, thank you so much for joining us.
SCHNEIDER: My pleasure. Absolutely.
NOOR: Thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.
On Saturday, December 21, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake will join homeless service providers, public officials, faith communities, and people experiencing homelessness to commemorate National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day. The public is invited to a 5:00PM memorial service at the Inner Harbor Amphitheatre to remember at least 103 people known to have experienced homelessness who died in 2013.
“Baltimore City joins communities nationwide to remember those who died without a secure place to live, and to recognize that every member of society should have the right to safe and affordable housing,” notes Mayor Rawings-Blake in a proclamation designating December 21 as Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day in Baltimore.
The local commemoration of National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day – held annually on the first day of winter and the longest night of the year – is organized by a coalition of homeless service providers and individuals united to “Stop Homelessness And Reduce Poverty,” (SHARP), along with the Coalition for Homeless Children and Families, and the Baltimore Homeless Youth Initiative. Reverend Dennis Dorsch, Reverend William T. Chaney, Jr., Reverend Brian Murray, and Reverend Earleen Henderson will lead the service, which will include a reading of the names of those who have died.
“These deaths are entirely preventable,” said Kevin Lindamood, President & CEO of Health Care for the Homeless. “The best way to honor those who died is to make comprehensive health care, affordable housing, and living wages our top priorities. Let us work together to build a future where there is no need to hold memorial services for people who die without housing – a future without homelessness.”
Earlier this month, the Baltimore City Council passed a resolution introduced by Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young to recognize December 21 as Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day in Baltimore City and “to bring attention to the struggle of people experiencing homelessness, to mourn the passing of our neighbors who, in life, lacked stable housing, and to rededicate ourselves to ending the conditions that create homelessness.”
“The very existence of homelessness shows our social and spiritual failing,” said Reverend Dennis Dorsch, a member of the coalition planning the local memorial service. “During this season, many of us remember a child who was laid in a manger because there was no shelter for Him and the Holy Family. As we remember Him, we also must remember our brothers and sisters who passed away this year because we failed to make room for them at the inn.”
For over two decades communities across the country have come together on or about December 21 to remember those who have died without stable housing. In 2012, nearly 150 communities held events to draw attention to the tragedy of homelessness, to remember those who paid the ultimate price for our nation’s failure to address the problem, and to recommit to the important task of ending homelessness.