Homelessness in our Area 

Mary Ellen McDermott '23, Staff Writer

Why are people homeless? Some common reasons, even in a wealthy community, include: lack of affordable homes, violence, serious health conditions, mental and physical disabilities, and substance use.

In Montgomery County, Maryland, homelessness has declined in the past few years, but it is not entirely gone. During the last two weeks of January every year, Montgomery County counts the number of homeless people who are out on one night. In 2017, the number of homeless people was 894. In 2019, it was 647. This is a 28% decline in the number of people living on the streets in our county. Montgomery County has a goal to ultimately end homelessness by 2023.

The Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee and The Human Health Services Committee have been working together. They have created a new plan to end homelessness in the next few years. They want to address racial inequalities, create and update reliable and flexible programs, create new affordable housing, coordinate efforts with other organizations, increase funding for these issues and educate our community about homelessness.

Our job is just to help people out.”

— Mrs. Cabigas

Other efforts that our county has made towards ending homelessness include The Interagency Commission on Homelessness (ICH) and The Continuum of Care. ICH is an advocate for the homeless. It makes recommendations to the County Executive about services, policies, laws, and other issues that affect homeless people. The Continuum of Care is a planning committee for homelessness in our county. This Committee includes landlords and other people who are involved with the housing market. It helps local organizations address and reduce housing problems that could cause homelessness. There are many service clubs and organizations, like Project Change, at Good Counselthat helps address issues in our community, one of them being homelessness. Good Counsel also hosts food and clothing drives to benefit people who are homeless. By taking action, you can help others in our community and help end homelessness.

How exactly can you help the county’s efforts to stop homelessness? One option is to volunteer or donate needed items through the Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless (MCCH). MCCH provides emergency shelters, permanent housing, and advocates for many issues that affect homelessness. One of their volunteer programs, called a “landscape a home” project, helps residents with disabilities to maintain their yards. This project helps residents be proud of where they live. Some other organizations that help homeless people, recommended by Good Counsel religion teacher Mrs. Cabigas, include Our Daily Bread, Habitat for Humanity, Wider Circle, andDress for Success.

Our Daily Bread is an organization that serves food to homeless people. You can volunteer in their Baltimore soup kitchen. “It is important to “see [the homeless people] face-to-face,” says Mrs. Cabigas, mentioning Our Daily Bread and encouraging students to volunteer. Habitat for Humanity is an organization that builds homes for homeless people. A Wider Circle provides homeless people with essential goods and helps the community become more connected. You can donate goods to this organization and volunteer by helping sort these goods, which will later be distributed to homeless people. Dress for Success is an organization that collects and distributes professional clothes to women in financial stress. These clothes help them prepare for job interviews. You can donate clothes or volunteer in the Dress for Success boutique.

Mrs. Cabigas also recommends that students raise awareness and take action in our community. She encourages

students to attend county meetings about homelessness and become advocates for homelessness. Mrs. Cabigas highlights that homelessness can be hidden and is not limited to the people living on the streets. Homeless people can be living in shelters or with family or friends. We are encouraged to “humanize the person who is homeless,” says Mrs. Cabigas, and to get to know someone who is homeless. This can be accomplished by volunteering at one of the organizations mentioned above.

In addition, Good Counsel has opportunities to help end homelessness. This year, Good Counsel hosted a sleep-out for homelessness. The main goal of this sleep-out was to raise money for Covenant House, an organization that helps homeless youth. The sleep-out “immerses people with the experience of being homeless,” says Mrs. Cabigas. It also made the experience of not having a home real to students. This event will likely be held again next year.  Good Counsel also has service clubs that help change our community. Project Change is one of these clubs. Project Change is dedicated to serving and helping those in need. In the past, “Project Change has completed many projects for homelessness relief in our area, mainly centered around food drives and organizing food to send to homeless shelters,” says student moderator, Keara Friel. She expects the club will continue projects that will support the homeless population.

Overall, in Mrs. Cabigas’ words, “our job is just to help people out.”