By ESTHER A. NGUONLY, Capital News Service
WASHINGTON - Homeless assistance programs in Maryland won a 6.5 percent increase in federal funds this year to $38.2 million, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced in a conference call Tuesday.
"We cannot stand aside and fail to act . . . the homeless population cannot be marginalized," said HUD Deputy Secretary Roy Bernardi.
Thirteen new programs statewide will benefit from this increase under the 2006 competitive grants process for various homeless communities across the nation.
"The increase will help marginally, but that's not going to solve the problem," said Nan Roman, president of the National Alliance to End Homelessness.
Although the funding nationwide has increased by nearly 16 percent, Roman says that it is not commensurate with the need, especially since nearly half of the homeless population is without shelter.
Additionally, about $2.42 million of the state's funds will be used for emergency shelter grants, a .7 percent decrease from 2005.
"It's not as much as we want," said Shirley Wilson, administrator for Meeting Ground, a shelter in Cecil County. For the 250 or so homeless the shelter serves annually, Wilson reports having only about $2,500 to work with for emergency shelter services last year.
Funding for Cecil County dropped by about $3,000 from 2005.
Nearly 8,000 people are homeless on any given day in the state, according to a recent estimate by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, concentrated largely in Baltimore City, which has about 2,904 homeless individuals. Another 1,209 homeless live in Montgomery County and 939 in Prince George's County.
HUD granted $16.8 million for programs in Baltimore City, $3.6 million for Prince George's County and almost $6 million for Montgomery County.
The Maryland Center for Veterans Education and Training received $1.4 million this year, the same amount as last year, and the most money among programs in Baltimore City. Other programs receiving over $1 million in Baltimore were Baltimore Mental Health Systems Inc., and the city of Baltimore.
"I feel good about it," said Col. Charles Williams, executive director of MCVET.
Serving anywhere from 230 to 275 individuals per day in the winter, MCVET's focus is to treat problems facing the homeless, such as substance abuse and mental or physical illness, and train individuals to "send back to the community as productive citizens," said Williams.
In 1997, HUD called the center program the "national model" for organizations helping homeless veterans, according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. Operating with a budget of about $3.4 million, the center also receives aid for programs from the departments of Labor and Veterans Affairs, according to Williams.
The HUD funds were distributed to more than 5,300 local homeless programs nationwide, with more than 150 listed within Maryland.
Resources would be used for programs to target chronic homelessness, and homeless individuals who are mothers and children, victims of domestic violence, veterans, mentally ill and have substance abuse problems, said Bernardi.
Of the 2006 funds, 16 percent will go to new projects nationwide. Among the 13 new Maryland programs are: the YMCA of Cumberland, Arundel House of Hope and Friends for Neighborhood Progress in Frederick.
All grants are listed at HUD's Web site, http://www.hud.gov.