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Baltimore City officials tout strides to curb homelessness, help thousands find housing

Housing Commissioner for the City of Baltimore, Alice Kennedy
Wambui Kamau
Housing Commissioner for the City of Baltimore, Alice Kennedy

Baltimore City resident and transgender activist, Renee Lau is one of thousands of individuals who found a safe place to stay through a city program to “to make homelessness a rare and brief occurrence.”

Lau says she experienced homelessness after suffering a job loss, battling cancer and undergoing her gender transition.

She tearfully shared her story, telling the room packed with city, state and federal officials that resources to combat homelessness have improved her quality of life.

“The funding that you provide, it opened up a big door,” said Lau who is now an interim director for Baltimore Safe Haven — a nonprofit wellness center that caters to the LGBTQIA community but particularly trans individuals.

Wambui Kamau
MD Department of Housing & Community Development, Secretary Jake Day

In 2021, the city joined the House America initiative, a national collaboration with the goal of housing anyone experiencing homelessness and adding affordable units to the pipeline.

Government officials have deployed a variety of resources from emergency housing vouchers to wraparound services such as substance abuse counseling and mental health care to encourage individuals to seek appropriate shelter.

Baltimore City Mayor Brandon Scott said the city has exceeded its initial goals for the program.

In 2022, Baltimore City housed 1,443 households and added more than 2,500 affordable housing units in the development pipeline.

“We were ambitious,” Scott said. “And not only did we meet our goals, we beat our goals.”

Wambui Kamau
Irene Agustin leads the Mayor's Office of Homeless Services.

The city still has a long way to go, and is applying over $90 million, from the American Rescue Plan Act funds, to further deal with homelessness, Scott said.

Baltimore City leaders plan to do the following:

  • Establish the parameters for the Rapid Resolution and Flex Fund, and kick off shelter diversion training this spring.
  • Issue an RFP for Rapid Rehousing, and contracts have been approved by the City's Board of Estimates, and enrolling households in this program.
  • Create a Housing Accelerator Fund to help build, revitalize and grow our affordable housing supply.

Baltimore City’s Housing Commissioner Alice Kennedy says these plans will include marginalized people.
“We’ve been reflecting on the history of housing inequities across the city,” Kennedy said. “Are we lifting everyone up and leaving no one behind?

Wambui Kamau is a General Assignment Reporter for WYPR. @WkThee
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