By EDITORIAL BOARD
The fourth annual Project Homeless Connect was held at the Baltimore Convention Center on Sept. 24. The goal of the program is to connect homeless citizens of Baltimore with much-needed assistance, such as financial services and even medical treatment. The Editorial Board strongly supports the program and thinks that it is an excellent step toward helping the homeless population of Baltimore.
Although it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact number, the Baltimore Mayor’s Office of Human Services estimates that 2,638 people go without shelter on any given night in the city. Around 35 percent of the entire homeless population in Maryland lives in Baltimore City, making it clear that our city has a problem when it comes to homelessness.
Organizers estimate that around 2,000 people showed up to the event this year, while 1,450 people attended last year. The fact that so many people attended it is encouraging, and the increase in turnout suggests that word is getting out and more people are realizing what a great opportunity it can be.
Project Homeless Connect provides a number of resources from employment and financial services to medical and dental care. One example was an organization that gave out eyeglasses to people who needed them. This service is extraordinarily important; without being able to see properly, it is difficult to manage even simple daily tasks.
Another impressive aspect of the event was the presence of Maryland’s Commitment to Veterans, a government program that is devoted to helping veterans. They work to connect veterans to mental health services and other important facilities. According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, about 12 percent of the homeless population is made up of veterans, and many suffer from mental health problems.
Both volunteers and attendees stated that they felt the event helped break down stereotypes of homeless people, which is an important part of approaching the homelessness issue in a realistic manner. In order to help the less fortunate members of our city, we need to reduce the stigma around homelessness and commit ourselves to creating, funding and volunteering for programs that will decrease and hopefully eliminate homelessness.
Baltimore has one of the highest homeless populations in the country, and it is increasing steadily. There has also been a significant increase in the number of homeless people between the ages of 14 and 25. In order to cope with this issue, we believe the city needs to create more programs to help the homeless population. In particular, we feel that the housing needs of the homeless population should be more thoroughly addressed. A roof and a bed are absolutely essential in helping homeless people rebuild their lives. Project Homeless Connect is certainly a step in the right direction, and connecting homeless people to jobs is a great way to ignite and sustain success, but the best way to foster growth is by providing a safe place to live with a door that locks.
Hopkins students can volunteer for the event through the Center for Social Concern, which also provided transportation to and from the event.
The program was hosted by United Way of Central Maryland, a non-profit group that helps the poor in Baltimore City and surrounding counties. United Way has plenty of volunteering opportunities and is always looking for donations of clothes and money. We strongly encourage students to look into volunteering at Project Homeless Connect or other United Way events.