EASTON — Jeanine Beasley, Mid-Shore Mental Health Systems’ continuum of care manager, said that, although the data gathered from the 2016 homeless Point-in-Time count indicates a decrease in the number of homeless individuals on the Mid-Shore, it likely does not tell a complete story regarding the region’s homeless population.
“Homelessness looks different on the Shore than it does in urban areas, so it’s more of a hidden homelessness in our region,” Beasley said.
This year, on Wednesday, Jan. 27, Beasley said, the Mid-Shore Roundtable on Homelessness conducted its annual PIT count, which found 138 people who were considered literally homeless, including 88 single individuals and 50 individuals in families.
Of that number, 66 were single males, 22 were single females and 33 were children. Also, 112 homeless individuals were sheltered in either emergency or transitional shelters and 26 were unsheltered. Twenty-nine of those sheltered were children, while four of those unsheltered were children.
Beasley said being literally homeless means an individual is living in an emergency shelter, in transitional housing or a place not meant for human habitation.
“Those would be the people who are living on the streets; we have a lot of people who live in cars, abandoned buildings,” Beasley said. “We have people who live in buildings that don’t have electric, don’t have roofs — that really are uninhabitable.”
The survey also found 49 people who were in danger of becoming homeless. In many instances, those were families with children, Beasley said.
She said, although people in danger of becoming homeless are not considered literally homeless, they often are on the edge, living with a friend or relative for a short time before having to move on to the next friend or relative. She said sometimes families also are broken up and the children are separated between several sets of aunts and uncles.
Beasley said looking at the number of those who are in danger of becoming homeless is important, because it gives the Mid-Shore Roundtable on Homelessness a “number to work with, to see who we might be seeing in the coming months or the coming year.”
“One of the things that I think is pretty alarming about that number, is that it’s always been a high percentage of families and children,” Beasley said.
The Mid-Shore Roundtable on Homelessness is a collaborative group serving Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot counties, Beasley said. She said the group is the local continuum of care, which guides and tracks the Mid-Shore’s homeless population through a variety of services, and has conducted the Point-In-Time survey annually since 2009, on the last Wednesday in January.
The group, which Beasley said began in 2006, brings together local homeless service providers, including emergency shelters, cold-weather shelters, transitional housing shelters, local departments of social services, local health departments, food pantries and faith-based organizations.
This year the survey took place at three Mid-Shore locations; Delmarva Community Action Agency in Cambridge, Seventh Day Adventist Church in Denton and the St. Vincent de Paul Society in Easton.
The annual survey counts the number of individuals who are literally homeless on that single night in January. The Mid-Shore Roundtable on Homelessness reports the data to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Beasley said.
She said the shelters provide the numbers of people they serve and Mid-Shore Roundtable on Homelessness coordinates volunteers who canvass the region, looking for people who are unsheltered.
She said the DHUD compiles the numbers of literally homeless nationally because all continuums of care participate in the survey, and the information helps guide Congress in providing funding for permanent supported housing programs.
Information gathered also helps local community action agencies and food pantries apply for grant funding from the state and federal government, as well as from private organizations, Beasley said. Additionally, she said, survey information helps local agencies obtain demographic information, which aids agencies in determining the local homeless population’s needs.
She said it is difficult to conduct the survey on the Mid-Shore because of the size of the region, and because the local homeless population often does not live on the street, visible for people to see.
“It’s not like in Baltimore, where you can go under the Jones Falls Expressway, where there’s people camping and you know where they are,” Beasley said. “In our region, people are out in the woods and you don’t see them, and you don’t really know where their encampments are, so it’s hard to find people.”
Beasley said, to succeed at gathering information for the survey, the Mid-Shore Roundtable on Homelessness hosts survey events in several locations, making it easier to bring the homeless population to them.
She said, although official numbers from the 2016 count indicate there are fewer Mid-Shore homeless than what was gathered during the 2015 survey, the Mid-Shore Roundtable on Homelessness does not feel like the numbers tell the complete story of the region’s homelessness.
“We don’t really feel that this is the full picture of homelessness on the Shore, because, while we’re getting better at getting people and finding people, we aren’t finding them all,” Beasley said. “So, while it’s great that we see a decrease from last year, we still don’t feel that we’re at that true picture.”
During the 2015 count, 158 individuals were counted as literally homeless, with 72 of those being single males, 33 single females and 34 of those being children. Of that number, 123 were sheltered, while 35 were unsheltered. Thirty of those sheltered were children, while four of those unsheltered were children.
Beasley said there are homeless individuals who do not attend the count events and even though volunteers canvass the region, the unsheltered largely remain elusive.
However, she said the organization is becoming more effective at conducting the survey and canvassing the region, and they are closer to being able to give a complete picture of Mid-Shore homelessness.
Beasley said overcoming the stigma of homelessness is one of the biggest hurdles.
“(The homeless are) just regular people who really need a hand. ... A lot of us are just a few paychecks away from being in that same situation,” Beasley said.
She said many local unsheltered homeless individuals do not want to be found.
“There’s a fear, especially for families. A lot of time families feel like, ‘If we’re homeless, and somebody finds out we’re homeless, we’re in danger of our family being separated,’” Beasley said. “Really, we’re trying to help people and keep families intact.”
The Mid-Shore Roundtable on Homelessness hosts monthly public meetings, which take place from 1:30 to 3 p.m. the second Tuesday of every month at Mid-Shore Mental Health Systems, located at 28578 Mary’s Court, suite 1, in Easton.
For more information, contact Beasley at 410-770-4801 or email@example.com.