City officials promised to help 55 people find homes, but protesters say a lot more needs to be done to address Baltimore’s growing homeless population
Stephen Janis: This is Stephen Janis reporting for the Real News Network in Baltimore City, Maryland. There’s been a tent city outside of Baltimore City Hall for almost a week, and it’s been controversial. The mayor’s been trying to get rid of it. Now the tents are coming up, and we’re going to find out why. The tents were put here to call attention to the fact that the city’s not been taking care of its homeless, so the controversy still lingers on. We talked to people about why they’re doing what they’re doing and what’s going to happen. Christine Flowers: The individuals, the residents of tent city pretty much negotiated a solution that would benefit street homeless individuals, 55 of them, to go to a common location for assessment and intake properly other than on tent city. Stephen Janis: So, they’ll be able to find permanent housing? Christine Flowers: Yes. Stephen Janis: Is that what this is about? Christine Flowers: Yes. Yes. The plan is they’re working on permanent housing, which that’s something that we will be working on getting permanent housing for the individuals. Stephen Janis: What’s going to happen to the tents that are here now? Christine Flowers: We’re taking the tents with us. Stephen Janis: To where? Christine Flowers: This will be going to Pentahughes or Pentacuse? Tamika Epps: Pinderhughes. Christine Flowers: Pinderhughes Elementary School. Tamika Epps: I’ve very proud that somebody came in, and stepped in, and took over the situation. I’m pleased to say that myself and other women and children have been out here for a while being placed today somewhere. Everyone else is also being placed. I also- Female: You’re happy. Tamika Epps: … am happy. Yes, I’m very happy, because I came out here crying- Female: Crying. Tamika Epps: … my first day. I mean, boohoo crying, and now it’s actually something being done and taken place for people that don’t have no one to advocate for them. Male: Do you know what I mean? Stephen Janis: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Male: It started off as bringing awareness to the homeless population, and it ended up being a safe haven for the women who get raped out at night in Downtown Baltimore. This is nobody down here to tell their story. Do you know what I mean? So, we at least stayed on the ground until we can get a place that they can be protected at night. Stephen Janis: Explain that a little bit. You’re saying that women came here because the sexual assaults that were happening throughout the city. Male: These women out here could tell you of being raped and left for dead behind dumpsters Downtown Baltimore in the back of these alleys, in the back of these streets. They’re scared to report them, and they’re scared of the police. When the woman I asked, I said, “Well, why didn’t you tell the police about this?” She said, “The police watched it happen.” Lisa Mills: Now, why this is a huge problem and she did offer us a Band-Aid, because I do believe it’s a Band-Aid to fix a really serious wound, but it’s a start. I want to say thank you to her. The people are grateful. They’re going to try to make the best of it. These people have been out here in the rain, in the heat, mosquitoes, no food. The donations from the people that came in were tremendous, so I just want to say thank you. It was a great effort. It’s a start, and we’re going to try and make the best of it. Stephen Janis: Many people know that it was ten years ago, almost today, that Mayor Dixon initiated her plan, a ten year plan, to end homelessness forever, but that plan was abandoned by the subsequent administration and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. Many people say that that decision and that deinvestment in services for the homeless is why we are here today. They also want residences to sign a waiver before they enter an intake facility where they will begin the process of finding a new home. Male: There are actually people sleeping on curbs even up by the arena, even downtown by the harbor, on the storefronts, on the curbs. Man, they’re just dropping and go to sleep, because they don’t have nowhere to go to go sleep even though they got shelters in here. I mean, it be closed, so people can’t go to get a beer. Do you know what I mean? Stephen Janis: Yeah. Male: It’s just devastating around here, man, especially in this downtown area of Baltimore, man. People just sleeping, just dropping anywhere they can find somewhere to sleep. James Clark: I mean, I’ve been to NBQ. I’ve been to the counselings office, and as of now I haven’t got anything done. All I got is something called a locator, something that I don’t even know what it is. Do you know what I mean? Stephen Janis: So, it’s a locator, what does that help you locate houses that are available? James Clark: Do you know what I mean? I’m not sure exactly what it is. I’m still in the process of finding out what it is, because I’m going through so many places trying to get help. Do you know what I mean? They say that they don’t want crime to happen, but when you got thousands and thousands of people on the streets that are homeless, I mean, what do you expect? Stephen Janis: For now, 55 people are supposed to get housing vouchers or put in some sort of affordable housing by the mayor. The Real News will continue to follow this story to see what happens. This is Stephen Janis with the Real News reporting from Baltimore City, Maryland.