Editor’s Note The faces of Caroline County are represented on the Caroline County Homeless Board by: · Lynn Keckler, Chair (His Hope Ministries) · Sherry Baker, Secretary (Choptank Electric Cooperative, Inc.) · Anne Chouinard, Secretary (Choptank Electric Cooperative, Inc.) · Debby Bennett (Caroline Co. Public Library) · Rev. Karen Handy (St. Luke’s United Methodist Church) · Sharone Scott (Caroline Co. OHEP) · Leigh Marquess (Caroline Co. Health Dept.) · RonQuel Friend (Caroline Co. Dept. of Social Services) · Melanie Rodriguez (St. Martin’s Ministries) · Bill Allen (Caroline Co. Public Schools) · Loge Knight (His Hope Ministries) · Mike Hoy (Delmarva Power) · Angel Perez (Caroline Co. YMCA) · Stefanie Johnson (His Hope Ministries)
Did You Know? Vendors and Volunteers represented at the Community Resource Day include: · Caroline Co. Family YMCA · Caroline Co. Health Dept. (Tobacco Ed., Healthy Living Info., & Abstinence Awareness) · Caroline Co. Health Dept. (Medical Assistance, ACCU, Immunizations) · Choptank Community Health · Walmart Vision Center · Judy Center/Family Support Center · Mid-Shore Veterans Group · Chesapeake College · Chesapeake Voyagers · Caroline Co. Public Library · Caroline Co. Public Schools/Dep’t of Pupil Services · Alliance Inc.: Support Services for Veterans · AmeriGroup of Maryland: Medicaid Health Benefits · Caroline Co. Economic Development · Choptank Electric Cooperative, Inc. · Caroline Co. Dept. of Social Services (OHEP) · Delmarva Power · Caroline Apartments/Riverside Rentals · Caroline Human Service Council (Local Care Team) · DART Container Corporation · Healthy Families Mid-Shore · Maryland Coalition of Families · Mid-Shore Behavioral Health · Crossroads Community Inc. · For All Seasons Inc. · Caroline Co. Behavioral Health · BesTemps · US Census Bureau Employment · Quality Staffing · Shore United Bank · Chesapeake Multicultural Resource Center · His Hope Ministries · St. Martin’s Ministries · Caroline Medical Adult Day Care · Hope Inc. · Salon 21 · Caroline Agape Project · Caroline’s Helping Hands · Maryland Legal Aid · Mid-Shore Pro Bono
According to the Council of Economic Advisers, an agency within the Executive Office of the President, the counting of the homeless in America is “generally conducted on a single night during the last ten days of January.” (The State of Homelessness in America, 8, Sept. 2019, https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/The-State-of-Homelessness-in-America.pdf). Community Resource Day is coordinated to coincide with the counting of our homeless community in Caroline County. Keckler shared that “previously the homeless and those in imminent in danger of homelessness were counted together” in the same category. They are now accounted for separately. The citizens of Caroline County are putting a face on homelessness and providing the resources to reduce homelessness in their community by the efforts of local coalitions such as the Caroline Homeless Board as well as being part of a national effort to “successfully reduce homelessness and address the underlying problems that people experiencing homelessness face.”
DENTON — The Caroline County Homeless Board held its fourth annual Community Resource Day on Wednesday, Jan. 29. Lynn Keckler, Chairperson of the Caroline County Homeless Board and Executive Director of His Hope Ministries stated that “there were approximately 358 visitors in attendance” for the event.
There are two main events planned each year by the Caroline County Homeless Board. Last November for the first time, the board hosted a series of panel discussions entitled “Faces of Homelessness” that were held Tuesday, Nov. 19, at the Federalsburg VFW, and the following Thursday, Nov. 21, at the Greensboro Community Hall.
According to Keckler, the timing of the series was precipitated by the Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, commemorated that same week both nationally and in Caroline County. National and local events also advanced the planning of the annual Community Resource Day, held the last Wednesday in January.
The event had 44 vendors that assisted homeless people with employment opportunities, housing opportunities, as well as services from the Caroline County health department, mental health providers, vision providers, veterans groups, free haircuts, oral cancer screenings and access to free coats, gloves, hats, socks, diapers and wipes.
Karen Handy has spent the last five years as lead pastor of the church and has helped coordinate the resource day event since its inception in 2018.
“As a community there are a lot of folks that need these resources,” Handy said. “When you see the numbers, it reminds us how great the need is in our community.”
Each year the government asks Caroline County as a whole to submit a point in time survey that attempts to give an accurate reading of the homeless population.
“This event’s goal is to get as many homeless people to come so we can better identify them,” Handy said. “These numbers help us match the resources where they need them the most.”
The event also featured an expungement program that helps individuals with criminal backgrounds find work and housing.
Joe Riley, States Attorney for Caroline County, played the administrator of justice role at the event.
“Expungements have traditionally in MD existed for persons charged but not convicted of any criminal wrongdoing in case,” Riley said. “In the last five years, this remedy has expanded to people who have been convicted of low level offenses, completed their sentence, and have been crime free for a certain period of time from 0 to 15 years depending on the conviction.”
Loge Knight, program director at His Hope Ministries, says that most employers aren’t properly trained when they perform background checks on applicants who have records.
“There are cases where an individual was found not guilty of a crime but it still shows up on Maryland judiciary case search,” Knight said. “We are trying our best to get records like that erased so more people can get jobs that want one.”
The same goes for housing as most landlords don’t typically allow prospective tenants to have criminal records.
“Our number one mission is to get people housing,” Knight said. “Whether they live on the street or in a car, we want to get them in housing of some sort.”
“The process to get a record expunged his 3-12 months,” Knight said, “If you know someone who is trying to get their record expunged, give us a call at 443-448-7297 and we can help.”
Keckler, as coordinator of the annual event and Executive Director of His Hope Ministries and Chairman of the Homeless Board, said “God has given me great opportunities in this role. Every year this event has grown and I have heard so many great stories about the amazing things we offer and the potential for growth in the future.”
Keckler is among many that help bring awareness to the homeless situation in Caroline County.
“I really like helping people,” Keckler said. “I was once homeless myself so I understand what these people go through on a daily basis.”
The event also assisted people with sleeping bags, coolers, portable phone chargers and $10 dollar gift cards to Royal Farms.
“This event has seen many people benefit from the services we offer,” she said. “We have amazing potential to keep this going in the years to come.”
Correspondent Claudia Farris contributed to this article.