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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Day Resource Center: One step in addressing Howard County’s homeless population

      I recently had a chance to visit the Day Resource Center on Route 1 to learn how this resource attempts to address the needs of our homeless population. The Day Resource Center is open on Monday from 2 to 6 pm, Wednesday from 3 to 7 pm and Saturdays from 10 am to 2 pm.  Joe Willmott gave me a tour and discussed the services provided at the Center. Joe explained that the Center is a good example of a partnership between government, the religious community and non- profits. When you hear people saying the government can’t do anything right, the Day Resource Center is an example to disprove that belief.

       Most of the homeless that use the Center are from 40 years of age on up.  It seems that many younger homeless individuals still find shelter with family and friends even if it is the “couch surfing” type of arrangement.  The users of the Center the day I visited were mostly men but there were a fair number of women. Many individuals using the Center have “burned their bridges” with family and friends because of addictions and mental illness. For others being homeless has become a way of life that most of us have difficulty understanding.

       People using the Center usually start with a meal at 3 p.m. that is provided by local churches.  Many have a second helping before they leave at 7 pm.  In between those two meals they can take a shower, wash their clothes, pick up toiletries, pick up some new clothes, use a computer, see a doctor or nurse, talk with a benefits volunteer or just relax in a lounge.  Many of the users even use the Center as a mailbox for receiving their mail, as they have no fixed address. Some have even contributed to the Homeless Gazette newsletter.
      In visiting the Center you can’t help but wonder about the path that the homeless have taken that have led them to live so precarious a life.  No question developing addictions can drag you down but that maybe a symptom more than the cause. What happens to our social relationships that leave us with no other option than to live in a tent in the woods as some of the users of the Center do?  One thinks about young people aging out of the foster care system or having mental health issues that go unmanaged because of the lack of good community mental health resources such as supportive housing. Maybe we will always have poor and homeless in Howard County but it is reassuring to know that our community has recognized that we do owe all of our citizens at least some measure of support and assistance as fellow humans.

   To learn more about Howard County’s Plan for Homelessness check out this link.


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