by Damien A. Haussling
Baltimore recently did its required biennial count of its homeless citizens. Teams of volunteers and outreach workers fanned the city looking for those of us without a stable place to sleep. I have been without stable housing for approximately 10 years. I have stayed in shelters, in wooded areas in a camp, in an abandoned building, in parking garage stairwells and on friends’ couches over the years. I have usually stayed in areas where I believed that I would not be found.
Shortly before the count, I heard of Baltimore’s goal to find and house the 75 sickest and most chronically homeless in the city using a vulnerability index and thought….”Maybe I will head to the shelter for those three nights (the census would take place January 28, 29, and 30) and try my luck at being one of those 75.” Certainly, with 10 years of street life and jail visits, wasn’t I chronically homeless? I prefer to camp out on my own but decided to head to Overflow to be counted.
I saw no one come to Overflow during those three days. Not one person came in. No one stood outside to interview or count us in the early morning hours when we streamed out into the street at 4:30 A.M. Did they simply call the shelter staff and ask “How many you got tonight?” What about that vulnerability index that was supposed to administered to find the 75?
I thought of two of my over hundred “roommates”, men who I see regularly in Overflow who have mobility issues that appear to be permanent and have other medical ailments. Where they interviewed? Did they miss the list, simply because no one came?
The City maintains a relatively new 24 hour shelter at 620 Fallsway for its un-housed residents, known as the Weinberg Housing Resource Center (HRC). The demand is so great that they have had to continue to house people at other locations in the city. There are at least 8 locations that they place women when they run out of space for them at the HRC. When they run out of space for men, they place them in a parking garage boxed in at Guilford Avenue and Saratoga, Lexington, and Davis streets.
But you’re not supposed to know this. The City’s website lists the men’s overflow location as “undisclosed”. Does undisclosed correspond to hidden?
Was I counted?