January 27, 2011

Readers respond to Laurel resident's plight

Last weekend I wrote about the rough economy's effect on unemployed workers ages 50 and up, who are having an especially rotten time finding a new job. A growing number are at the brink of homelessness.

One, Laurel resident Kathleen Harwell, 59, has searched for nearly two years to replace her eliminated administrative-assistant position. Unemployment benefits exhausted and too young for Social Security, she was about to be evicted from her mobile-home community.

She owns her house outright but had fallen several months behind on the rent for her land. Her management company warned her in December that it would move to auction it to pay the arrears if she couldn't pay up by mid-January. "I'm out of luck unless a miracle happens," she said last week.

Readers took that as a call to action. Several sent checks to Harwell, made out to the company, that collectively paid off the $2,100 in arrears as well as her February rent. That buys her a month to keep searching for a job or another alternative to life in a shelter.

Some of the people donating money are in that 50-plus age group and felt fortunate that they were doing all right. One woman, a retiree, felt a connection based on background: "I was an administrative assistant for many years," she told me.

Continue reading "Readers respond to Laurel resident's plight" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 6:00 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Homelessness, The economy

June 6, 2010

Are you reading this from a homeless shelter?

High unemployment -- ever-longer stretches of it -- has thrust more Americans to the brink of homelessness. If this describes you, here's something you'll want to know:

Maryland's Department of Housing and Community Development said Friday that it has a new rental assistance program for people "who have become homeless or are at 'imminent risk' of becoming homeless as a result of the severe downturn in the economy over the past two years."

It received $22.4 million in federal stimulus funding for the effort.

A few details:

Eligible individuals and families may receive assistance in the form of rental payments, utility payments, rental and utility deposits, arrearages, moving costs and other allowable expenses. In addition to financial assistance, the program also provides for case management and other services to help clients in achieving stable, long term housing.

To access the help, call 1-877-428-8844 and mention the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Homelessness

July 10, 2009

$22 million to combat Md. homelessness

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is sending $22.4 million to Maryland to get people who are homeless -- or at the brink of homelessness -- into rental housing. The money, part of a new $1.5 billion program, is supposed to pay for short- or medium-term rental assistance and services, HUD said. That might mean security deposits, for instance, or utility payments.

HUD, which issued its 2008 report on homelessness yesterday, says it's seeing a change that reflects these recessionary times: "many more" people are showing up at shelters who until the night before had a place to stay. The agency says "most of these persons appear to be wearing out their welcome with family and friends." Also:

Between 2007 and 2008, the share of the sheltered homeless population in suburban and rural areas increased from 23 percent to 32 percent. The increase does not reflect increased capacity of residential programs in suburban and rural areas, but instead more intensive use of that capacity.
The agency estimated that Maryland's homeless population shrank a bit last year, to 9,219 from 9,628. But that count was done in January 2008, one month into the national recession and before Maryland's unemployment rate began rising fast. (Joblessness was a low 3.6 percent at the beginning of '08. Since then it's doubled to 7.2 percent, the highest in 26 years.)

HUD ranked Maryland 18th among the states for its number of homeless residents compared with its total population. That share: 0.16 percent, the same as New Jersey and Tennessee.

Oregon, at 0.54 percent, had the country's highest share of homeless residents, according to the estimates. Kansas, with 0.06 percent, had the lowest.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Homelessness
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About Jamie Smith Hopkins
Jamie Smith Hopkins, a Baltimore Sun reporter since 1999, writes about the regional economy. Her reporting on the housing market has won national and local awards. Hopkins is a Columbia native and has lived in Maryland all her life, save for 10 months spent covering schools in Ames, Iowa.
She trained to become a wonk by spending large chunks of time as a geek and an insufferable know-it-all.
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