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Tensions High at Meeting for Homeless Plan
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February 15, 2013
Five years ago, then Mayor Sheila Dixon announced a ten year plan to end homelessness in Baltimore. At the halfway point, folks working on “The Journey Home” as it’s now called - brought in a consulting firm to give that plan a face lift. But the revised plan, revealed last night, met with strong opposition. WYPR’s Mary Rose Madden was there and brings us this report.
Mary Rose Madden: Iain De Jong, CEO of OrgCode, the consultants that drafted the plan, said his firm had gone through months of community meetings, waded through mountains of data and this was the final plan.
Iain De Jong: The plan is really well laid out in terms of directions to go. We’re not anticipating as a result of our conversation today seismic shifts.
Madden: But the group of about 100 city employees, non-profit workers and homeless people had other ideas. Antonia Fasanelli, executive director of The Homeless Persons Representation Project, complained that OrgCode didn’t get the city’s commitment to tackle the problem of affordable housing – a key to housing the city’s homeless.
Antonia Fasanelli: I’m very disappointed with this draft that was produced. We are not going to end homelessness unless there are commitments to affordable housing.
Madden: Furthermore, she said, The Housing Authority of Baltimore City made those commitments in the original plan in 2008. They’re missing from this one, she said.
Fasanelli: I think the Housing Department is willing to give those commitments.
Madden: Anthony Scott, the housing authority’s deputy director, pointed out that the public had only three and half days to look through it before last night’s meeting AND that though the community was involved before the report was written, it had no opportunity to provide feedback before it was finalized.
Scott: The community as a whole needs the opportunity to digest that, critique it. We don’t always agree, but we do all work to come to a conclusion that we think is best given the resources that we have. And I don’t think that that plan reflects the resources that are available, the ability that we have, and a collective voice for how that plan should work for the city of Baltimore. Over the past five years, homelessness in Baltimore has increased by 57 percent, which has made the need for a workable plan even more critical. De Jong, who said he was expecting only minor tweaks to the plan, went through the updated benchmarks, goals and priorities.
De Jong: …the next thing relative to our agenda – I will walk you through the benchmarks…
Madden: He stressed things like the need for The Journey Home to have an Executive Director who’s close to the mayor.
De Jong: The best way to institute leadership in the mayor’s office is to have the Executive Director report to the Mayor’s office. What does the Mayor want to see? Results.
Madden: De Jong said the community must reduce first time homelessness by 30% and increase access to stable and affordable housing. But a man who goes by Turk, one of the many homeless people there, said he’d heard this all before.
Turk: See everybody with the suit and tie can say whatever they want. Have y’all been homeless? I heard this same thing 30 years ago when I was a little boy and my mom was trying to get HUD in Philadelphia. That’s the same thing – that’s a 30 year old plan just updated with some new bigger words. That’s all it is, that’s the same thing.
Madden: De Jong, who even tried cracking a few jokes about Valtentine’s Day…
De Jong: It’s with love.
Madden: ...said his company was hired to take the report thus far. And that any further work would be decided by the group that hired him: The Journey Home’s leadership advisory group. Amy Kleine represented that group last night. She gave her consent.
Amy Kleine: There will be a longer comment period and an opportunity for people to take some more time to read over the document and provide input that will be used to provide the final plan.
Madden: There’s no set date for the next review period and no one knows exactly how much input will be taken. But last night, Baltimore’s community fighting homelessness asked for more and they were heard. I’m Mary Rose Madden reporting in Baltimore for 88-1, WYPR.
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