Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2007

Looking at both sides of debate over homeless housing

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Three recent Gazette articles discussing the proposed uses of the old Rockville Post Office demonstrate that political play is detracting from the substantive core of the issue. Let’s get back to what really is at stake here.

Homelessness in the county continues to increase. In a one-day census conducted in January, 1,139 men, women and children lacked stable, permanent homes. The one-day number translates into at least three times that amount annually. Twenty-nine percent of these people are children who face increased health risks, poorer performance in school, and delayed cognitive and emotional development as a result of their living situation. Seventy-two percent of these homeless adults suffer from at least one disability and cannot receive the treatment they need because they lack stable housing. In addition, 29 percent of these adults are employed but cannot afford to live in the community in which they work.

At the Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless, we lead the effort to end homelessness in our community by creating housing options, providing supportive services and facilitating collaboration, education and advocacy based on the belief that every person is entitled to the dignity of a home.

While Mayor Larry Giammo ‘‘question[s] the link between a homeless support group and affordable housing,” the coalition stands resolute in its conviction that affordable housing is at the core of our mission. Homelessness is a housing problem and the lack of a range of decent, affordable housing for every member of our community contributes to the increase in homelessness we see annually. The solution is to increase the stock of affordable housing and provide the support people need to succeed in their home.

The coalition routinely searches for opportunities to create housing and services. The application for the Rockville Post Office was not last minute; it was part of a planned approach to increasing services to help people exit homelessness. A request to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was dated the same day the listing appeared in the Federal Register. The final application was submitted before the deadline, not because it was a last-minute effort, but because the application is detailed and required extensive preparation.

The old post office was chosen not as a political ploy, but because the location is ideal for people using public transportation, the size of the facility lends itself to a multi-service center and, most importantly, because the need exists.

Sharan London, Rockville

The writer is executive director, Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless.

Let’s get real. It is just not an appropriate use of resources.

Leasing an historic building in downtown Rockville to an organization whose clientele will be loitering in the facility and the immediate area will have an adverse effect on the investment we have made in the new town center. We all want our property values to rise not fall.

There are many other buildings (not historic) in better locations that would be suitable to serve this function.

Let’s be sure to use our limited real estate resources wisely and with reverence.

Kathleen M. Cook, Rockville