Montgomery County’s homeless flood local shelters during recent cold snap -- Gazette.Net


With the recent cold snap still fresh in mind, the Montgomery County 100,000 Homes Campaign has been working to help the county’s homeless stay off the streets.

The county’s campaign is part of a national movement of more than 200 communities that works to find permanent homes for chronic and medically vulnerable homeless people.

Since the initiative began in November, four street outreach programs have been working to engage homeless individuals and learn more about them, according to a news release. People Encouraging People Homeless Outreach, Bethesda Cares, Interfaith Works Community Vision and the City of Gaithersburg have staff that spend time talking with people living outside, with the focus of learning about their needs and directing them to safe housing.

A slight uptick in the number of homeless people seeking out one shelter in Silver Spring during Tuesday’s weather event is a small sign of success, according to Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless Executive Director Susanne Sinclair-Smith.

Home Builders Care Assessment Center for men, operated by the Coalition for the Homeless at 600B E. Gude Drive, welcomed more people than the shelter could hold. It has a capacity of 135 men, but 160 sought shelter there Monday night, according to Sinclair-Smith. Twenty-five of the men were taken to East County Community Recreation Center in Silver Spring for shelter overnight, she said.

“We certainly saw more men over this cold period,” she said. “But we do not turn anyone away. We encourage them to come.”

Montgomery County Police have also been periodically checking known homeless encampments, monitoring the welfare of those homeless individuals and encouraging them to go to shelters, the news release said.

Looking to end homelessness, the County Council approved an appropriation Dec. 3 that gives $649,325 to the county’s Department of Housing and Community Affairs to provide permanent housing with supportive services for 15 homeless people classified as medically vulnerable.

Montgomery County Council President Craig Rice (D-Dist. 2) of Germantown said the campaign’s efforts are a step in the right direction.

“This county has done many things over the years to help address our homeless population,” he said. “The 100,000 Homes Campaign targets a special segment of this population - a population that has been difficult to reach. Through this program, and the steps that are being put in place, we now have a better chance of letting them tell us their needs and then directly working to find housing for these most vulnerable people.”

County officials encourage anyone in need of emergency shelter to call the crisis center at 240-777-4000. “Street cards,” provided by the county, list resources available for those experiencing homeless in the area.

With some of the harshest winter weather so far this season making its departure, the American Red Cross is asking all eligible blood and platelet donors to give blood to replenish the supply that went unfilled during cold weather spurts this month.

The Red Cross of the Chesapeake Region, which serves Maryland, Washington D.C., Northern Virginia, and York and Adams counties in Pennsylvania, was forced to cancel 10 blood drives since Jan. 2 because of the inclement weather. The cancellations resulted in about 258 fewer blood and platelet donations.

Platelet donors, and blood donors with the most in-demand blood types - O positive and negative, A negative and B negative - are needed to donate to help offset the shortfall.

“It’s the blood product already on the shelves that help save lives when severe weather hits,” said Linda Voss, chief executive office of the Red Cross Greater Chesapeake and Potomac Blood Services Region.

Following Tuesday’s big chill, Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) saw a spike in water main breaks. WSSC spokeswoman Lyn Riggins reported a total of 64 water main breaks in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties that needed fixing as of 4:30 p.m. Thursday.