Although the U.S. Housing and Urban Development reports a decrease in the number of homeless people across the nation, there are no indications the problem is diminishing in Allegany County.
HUD recently reported that Maryland’s homeless population this year is estimated at 8,205, compared to 10,845 in 2010.
But the situation in Allegany County is not as encouraging. Courtney Thomas, executive director of the county’s Human Resources Development Commission, said her agency does not believe the HUD statistics are an accurate reflection of the local homelessness problem.
“In HRDC’s most recent fiscal year (which ended Sept. 30), Laura’s Anchor, Allegany County’s only transitional shelter for homeless women and children with a 14-bed capacity housed a total of 55 individuals (20 heads of household and 35 children). An additional 377 individuals (130 individuals and 247 children) sought shelter during the year but were turned away due to lack of space. Some of these individuals found shelter at the Union Rescue Mission; others were housed for a short period of time in local hotels; and others remained without a place to go until the cold weather shelter opened in January,” she told the Times-News.
It is the cold weather shelter that is a key component of helping the homeless each winter. The local facility — a joint effort by the Union Rescue Mission and HRDC with funding support from the County United Way as well as donations from local churches and businesses— will open Jan. 2. Last year the shelter housed 44 individuals and provided 957 meals to homeless over the course of January, February and March.
Without a cold weather shelter to go to, many of these individuals might face serious illness — or even death. It’s a dire need in the community. Anyone able to help can contact HRDC at 301-777-5970 or the Union Rescue Mission at 301-724-1585.