New Montgomery commission will coordinate county homeless efforts -- Gazette.Net







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Montgomery County will create a commission to help coordinate the county’s services to help homeless residents.

The County Council voted unanimously at its meeting Tuesday to approve the formation of the Interagency Commission on Homelessness, an effort to make sure the county is providing the best services to its homeless population.

The county is making “measurable” progress in curing chronic homelessness, said Council Vice President George L. Leventhal (D-At large) of Takoma Park, a longtime advocate on the issue.

Several council members spoke emotionally about their experiences dealing with homeless individuals.

Councilwoman Cherri Branson (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring talked about a conversation she had with a homeless man while delivering food in the District of Columbia about 30 years ago.

The man told her that the worst part about being homeless wasn’t the cold or the hunger, but in watching people walk by him every day and not seem to notice him.

“We must never look away,” Branson said.

The new commission will include staff from the county’s departments of Health and Human Services, Correction and Rehabilitation, Housing and Community Affairs and police department, along with a representative from Montgomery County Public Schools and the office of County Executive Isiah Leggett, as well as a member of the County Council, the Housing Opportunities Commission, representatives from the municipal governments of Rockville, Gaithersburg and Takoma Park, a representative from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs or the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs and the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and a member of the county’s delegation to the General Assembly.

Leggett (D) will also pick four members of the public, including at least one of whom must be a homeless or formerly homeless resident and one of whom must represent a hospital based in the county.

The commission is required to develop a strategic plan to reduce homelessness and recommend changes to the council and executive that would minimize the amount of time needed to move a homeless person into housing.

Each November, the commission will be required to provide a report to the executive and council on data and trends on homelessness, identify gaps in the county’s services for the homeless, make budget recommendations and suggestions on legal or regulatory changes to improve care.