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  November 12, 2015

Losing Shelter from the Storm

Residents from the Youth Empowered Society and staff from the Weinberg Housing and Resource Center describe the conditions and challenges for sheltering Baltimore's homeless population.
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TITLE CARD: On any given day there are 3,000 people who are homeless in Baltimore.

Recently The Real News visited the Youth Empowered Society to organize a Townhall on homelessness.

During the meeting youth shared their experience living in homeless shelters. In particular, the Weinberg Housing and Resource Center.

The Weinberg Housing and Resource Center is the largest homeless shelter in Baltimore.

SPEAKER: I think one of the major issues that people deal with, with being homeless, is how they're treated. The initial--the people that are supposed to service you, whether it's, like, buildings, institutions, programs, they treat me as if I've never had it before, as if I've never done it before, as if I can't do it better than them. And God knows I can't--even their job. You know, like, I've worked in a facility before where people were homeless, where people were drug addicts. So it's not like I don't know how the system works being on the, on the end of being a staff member. So being a person who needs the service now because of conditions they assume that I'm lazy, they assume that I'm not smart, they assume that I'm not educated. They assume that I'm not a person who's involved in their community. I'm a person who is heavily involved in my community.

So it's really crazy that, you know what I'm saying, I'm not being looked at in terms of what's already provided, in terms of the popular noise of service. Like, the, the noise that--if anybody said they was homeless right now, we could all say, this is the place you go to. You know what I'm saying, we could all say this is the place you go to. Everybody could say, go to Code Blue. But how much of Code Blue, or whatever it's called now, because the—.

SPEAKER: Weinberg Housing and Resource facility. As one of the former, as [I say] former residents of it, it is terrible. Because most of the time you got guys in there that's--okay. You got guys in there who are, do not appreciate or [inaud.] taking showers. It's, like, some of the housing conditions that you're talking about, you got bedbugs and God knows what's going on in there. You got staff members telling you to do things that you know, that wouldn't usually go against a normal [person's] population. It's so many things going on in there. It's confusing to a normal person. It gets confusing to a normal person.

Like, when I went in there I was like, okay. I'm just, I'm just going to do what I do best. Oh yeah, you can't tell me, you're going to tell me I can't do this. I'm going to do this, and make sure I get this done. It took me coming here to get my [housing voucher], and I've been in there for two, going on three years.

SPEAKER: A lot of places, they have plenty of resources for people who are homeless. I actually, I talk to them on a daily basis, and I know exactly what's going on with them. Like, Code Blue, they don't even help nobody. Like, it's--the conditions inside of Code Blue are horrid. Like, they're not, like--like, health code, it's health code violations all the way around. So it's like, you're supposed to be helping someone but you're just going to make them sick. And, but a lot of places that have so-called resources, they don't even, like--Social Services, for example. Half the things they have there, grants and all the stuff to help, they don't tell no one about it. You have to literally, like, research it. They should be offering it. It's for the public. And, like, certain resources could help people from being homeless to not homeless no more.

TITLE CARD: “We work to provide a safe, welcoming and health environment every day for residents at the Weinberg Housing and Resource Center,” said Christine Kay, Associate Administrator for the Community Services Division at Catholic Charities.

“The Baltimore City Health Department found absolutely no violations at the shelter during an inspection in October,” Kay added.

As a response to these complaints the Weinberg Housing and Resource Center granted a tour to The Real News Network.

BETH AWALT: Hi. So welcome to the Weinberg Housing and Resource Center. We're Baltimore City's largest homeless shelter. Here we have 275 residents and an additional 200-300 people who use us as a day resource center every day as our guests.

So one of the biggest changes since Catholic Charities took over is providing the long-term bed stay option for our residents. Again, we have 275 residents, which is comprised of 175 men, 75 women, and 25 folks in our convalescent care unit. And all of those residents don't have to be back until 8:00 PM every day. The exception to that rule is if they do have a verified documentation that they were either in the hospital that day, or that they were at work that day, at work, from their employer. We do extend that curfew to whatever is needed.

Welcome to our laundry room. This is the space where our volunteer resident monitors, or VRMs, our residents who volunteer with us, give back in a really positive way. They actually do all of the laundry for the entire building. We have 275 residents who get all of their laundry, both personal laundry as well as linens, done once a week. And there's a rotating schedule so that our volunteer resident monitors are working anywhere from six to ten hours a day, volunteering their time to wash linens and personal laundry. That does also include when someone becomes a resident for the first time. All of their belongings get washed, so that way we're ensuring the highest sense of hygiene possible.

So every year we have a goal that we want a certain number of our residents to move into permanent housing. That [does] include other types of housing, so like transitional housing or things like that that might be less permanent, that are still a positive step for moving out of here. But in the past year alone our goal was to move 100 residents into permanent housing, and our grand total was 139. So what I think is really beautiful is since we have this, like, long-term bed stay program we do get to know our residents better and they get to know us better.

So we really have the opportunity to walk with them in their journey, to know them, to know where their struggles are and where their successes are, and to celebrate their joys with them. Just today I had a really dear resident of mine who came to me and told me he has an interview tomorrow morning. And I would be excited for anyone who told me they have a job interview tomorrow morning, but to know this particular resident, to know that he has this specific interview at the company that I'm familiar with that I knew would be a great fit for him, those kinds of things are pieces that we can work with more closely. So we do have the opportunity to work with residents in their greater struggles, because we know them better.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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