I am soldier in the fight to end homelessness

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I fight because I was there sleeping on a park bench. I fight because I was there standing hungry in the soup kitchen line. I fight because I slept at the old city shelter on Davis Street in a parking garage.   I fight because homelessness isn’t anywhere near rare and brief in Baltimore and beyond.

Do you know anyone can become homeless at anytime?

Every day people become homeless. No one I’ve ever seen wakes up and says “I think I’ll become homeless today.”   Ask a child what they want to be when he/she grows up. Has any child you know ever said, “a homeless person”?

Parents die and split up leaving children homeless. Marriages fall apart leaving people homeless. Domestic violence unfortunately occurs and leaves victims homeless. People are released from jail and become homeless. Mental hospitals close leaving patients homeless. Banks foreclose on homes, creating homelessness.  Hurricanes happen leaving people homeless. Corporations lay off workers creating homelessness. Small businesses crumble being bought out by big companies causing homelessness.  Developers don’t develop affordable housing units causing homelessness.  Lack of access to basic human rights such as food, clothing, healthcare, education and housing creates homelessness.

In Baltimore just in the past two weeks the homeless became more homeless.  I know what you are thinking, “More homeless? How is that possible?” Some homeless people choose to live in homeless encampments rather than be subjected to the horrors of the current city shelter, HRC. These people tried HRC and it failed them.  A homeless encampment is a community of homeless people who live outside sometimes in tents. “What?”  People choose to live outside. “Why would they do such a thing?” Because they have no alternative left that works.

People had been living in the #Camp83 homeless community for about four years. Their encampment no longer exists. Their home was destroyed by bulldozers last Friday morning. When certain people in power decide that homeless people need to be less visible or invisible, evictions like this occur. I fought along with hundreds of others to try and stop or delay this eviction until the residents had permanent affordable housing.  Unfortunately, we lost this battle.

Yesterday I, along with other soldiers in the fight to end homelessness, looked out the window to see the DPW truck in another homeless community. We responded and one of our brave leaders negotiated a temporary truce. The DPW was intent upon trashing all of these homeless peoples’ possessions.  Ever imagine sleeping under a bridge and calling it home?  Imagine having to stand by all you own to avoid having it discarded as meaningless junk. Important things like your prescribed medication, identification and your clothes.  The reality is people have to do this here in Charm City.

One of the tents housing homeless people under highway 83 bridge.
One of the tents housing homeless people under highway 83 bridge. (Bonnie Lane)

Housing for most is a vague concept few see in a concrete building form. It simply doesn’t exist except in our presentations to politicians and developers. Who can afford the market rent housing in Baltimore?  Many work two or more jobs and still struggle with this.

Tonight, I and fellow soldiers in the fight to end homelessness were at City Hall. Mary Pat Clarke asked for a hearing to revisit the Journey Home, which is Baltimore’s plan to end homelessness. Councilman Bill Henry chaired this spirited public hearing of the Housing Committee.  There is a draft of a new plan to end homelessness.  It will not and cannot even begin to achieve it. We soldiers actively participated in government and we were heard. It was great to see the people we elected listening intently about the homeless situations here and truly caring.

It will take every person in this society to end homelessness. As a team working together it can be achieved with affordable housing, livable incomes, healthcare for all, education and preventive services.  Everyone deserves to go home!

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