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What MORE can we do for the homeLESS?

Two+of+the+students+that+Interfaith+Works+in+Montgomery+County+supports+provided+brand+new+backpacks+filled+with+lots+of+new+school+supplies+on+their+first+day+of+school%21+%0A%0APhoto+Courtesy+of+Interfaith+works.
Two of the students that Interfaith Works in Montgomery County supports provided brand new backpacks filled with lots of new school supplies on their first day of school! 

Photo Courtesy of Interfaith works.

Two of the students that Interfaith Works in Montgomery County supports provided brand new backpacks filled with lots of new school supplies on their first day of school! Photo Courtesy of Interfaith works.

Two of the students that Interfaith Works in Montgomery County supports provided brand new backpacks filled with lots of new school supplies on their first day of school! Photo Courtesy of Interfaith works.

by Kate Mannarino

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The short URL of the present article is: https://lhslance.org/mFL6X

Average students worry  about what they will wear to school the next day, or if they are going to do good on an exam or what to do on the weekend.  Most likely, they do not think about the problem of homelessness. Most think that homeless people live in big cities far away from the farmland of Frederick County.  In fact, these same students may be surprised to learn that some of their classmates, even some of their friends, have a terrible secret.  They don’t have a place to live.

“We can help with any number of issues from tutoring to providing clothing, food, and hygiene products,” said Mrs. Ilana Blum, counselor.

Every school has a homeless coordinator to meet the needs of that specific population of students. Blum said, “Homelessness doesn’t necessarily mean living on your streets, or in your car; it could just be someone who’s lost his job that needs to live with family.” It’s important that as a community and school to be sensitive of needs of others during any time of the year, especially during holidays.

In Frederick County the rate of homelessness is about 275 individuals per night. According to The National Alliance to End Homelessness, there are 633,782 people experiencing homelessness on any given night in the US.  Nearly one quarter of them are children.  More than 10% are veterans, and nearly half of the homeless people in our country are disabled and unable to work.

The solution is equally complicated. Advocates for Homeless Families, a non-profit in Frederick, has a mission of helping homeless people become independent. Ken Allread explained that his shelter does not accept alcoholics and drug addicts.   “Advocates’ mission is not recovery,” Allread says. “Rather, it is to help motivated homeless families achieve independence by providing access to housing, education, and supportive services.”

James Mannarino, the Executive Director of Interfaith Works, a Montgomery County non-profit that works with homeless people and people living in poverty, explains that their approach is different.  “We work to help people who are homeless move toward stability.  That requires that they participate in various programs along a continuum of care, designed to help them achieve stability,” he said.  “We start by having potential clients meet with case workers.  The case workers do an evaluation of the client’s needs, and then require them to follow those recommendations in order for them to come into our shelters.”

According to Todd Johnson from the Frederick County Coalition for the Homeless, their approach is similar.  The Coalition identifies the needs of our County’s homeless, advocates for resources and coordinates services to meet these needs.

Allread says that they work hard to ensure that people going through their program don’t fall back into homelessness, even though it is a complicated process.  “All participants must sign a program agreement upon acceptance into our program that stipulates that they will go to school to obtain a vocational training certification, academic degree, or GED (if appropriate) that will enhance their future employment options,” he explains.  “They will seek and obtain full- or part-time employment while in our program; their children will maintain strong attendance at school, maintain passing grades in all subjects and/or seek tutoring where needed, and be active in after-school supervised activities.”

But Advocates does not stop there.  All parents must attend a weekly life skills workgroup, which embraces 52 units of instruction in finance and budget, parenting and interpersonal relationships, health and wellness, and independent living skills.

The program appears to be working.  They can boast that after one year, 90 % of the graduating families are still in permanent housing.

 

 

 

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What MORE can we do for the homeLESS?