75 Journeys Are Not Enough

75 Journeys Are Not Enough

Clients form a line in the rear parking lot of the Weinberg Housing and Resource Center shelter waiting to get a bed. Photo by Dan Staples.
Clients form a line in the rear parking lot of the Weinberg Housing and Resource Center shelter waiting to get a bed. Photo by Dan Staples.

Actions speak louder than words. The words say “75 journeys home” for people experiencing homelessness in Baltimore. But what do the actions say? You might assume, as we did, that 75 journeys home means that the city has allocated new funding for 75 new apartments. You might think that funding for new housing vouchers is great news. However, at last count, over 4,000 people sleep on Baltimore’s streets each night. “75 Journeys Home” is less than 2% of the people who desperately need housing, but better than nothing.

In fact, the city has not allocated funding for 75 new housing vouchers. The effort known as “75 Journeys Home” is an attempt to identify the 75 most vulnerable people on the streets and connect them with existing housing resources. It is no different than what the nonprofits in Baltimore who work with people experiencing homelessness do already. The “75 Journeys Home” simply is a façade and a public relations stunt that may actually displace existing homeless folks who are currently on housing waiting lists. With or without the “75 Journeys Home,” the same number of people will have access to housing in our city. While prioritizing the most vulnerable is laudable, all people experiencing homelessness are vulnerable. Research has shown that the risk of premature death is 3-4 times higher for people experiencing homelessness as compared to those who are housed.

Five years ago, a team of people spent a lot of time and money crafting a specific plan to end homelessness in Baltimore. This plan, called “The Journey Home,” tackles the root causes of homelessness: a lack of affordable housing, poverty, and a lack of access to healthcare. “The Journey Home” is a good plan to tackle these big issues. However, we need to focus on actually implementing the plan. For example, the Baltimore City Office of Homeless Services has spent the past year working on the “75 Journeys Home” project. However, this project is a smokescreen that does little to further the goals outlined in the 10 year plan to end homelessness. In addition, the city does not need to spend money on hiring OrgCode, a Canadian consulting firm, to rewrite the 10 year plan. Why were our resources used to pay these consultants this past fall and winter instead of making progress towards the concrete realization of our “Journey Home” plan?

We need to take action to change policies so that all workers can support themselves. To afford the average rent of a 2 bedroom apartment in our state, you need 3.4 full-time minimum wage jobs! A full-time worker should be able to earn enough money to provide for their basic needs of housing, food, clothing, and medical care.

We also need to take action to increase the availability of affordable housing. This is part of the “Journey Home” plan to end homelessness. One of the ways to do this is to include a proportion of affordable units in any new development. This is a proven strategy that has worked across the country. How disappointing when the new Westside superblock development in Baltimore was exempted from the new policy.  Yet again, the actions speak louder than words.

Let’s not give lip service to our goal of ending homelessness. Let’s make our actions speak louder than our words.

Signed,

Housing our Neighbors (HON)

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We believe that all men, women and children in Baltimore must be adequately and safely housed, all within an atmosphere of acceptance and human dignity.