By Susan DuMont
Mendicant: [men-di-kuh nt]
1. begging; practicing begging; living on alms.
2. pertaining to or characteristic of a beggar.
3. a person who lives by begging; beggar.
4. a member of any of several orders of friars that originally forbade ownership of property, subsisting mostly on alms.
Along with teaching us this new word for professional pan-handlers, Nate Fields, Manager of Homeless Outreach from Baltimore’s Downtown Partnership, shared information on the City’s efforts to address homelessness when he attended the February MRIA meeting. Neighbors in the audience voiced concerns and questions about the encampment near the JFX North bound on-ramp at North Avenue.
I followed up with Nate to better understand how Bolton Hill residents can support the City’s efforts to provide care and transition to people experiencing homelessness, and the side effects of homelessness on the city.
Nate advised that the number one thing residents can do is support the assistance efforts that are already in place with money and physical donations. The City, the Downtown Partnership, and United Way are getting a “Text-to-Give” phone line up and running, which will allow Bolton Hill residents to give directly through a text service and encourage others to do likewise.
Donate Money and Supplies
Healthcare for the Homeless provides comprehensive services for homeless persons. These services go far beyond healthcare to include financial aid, counseling, and support services that help clients obtain identification papers, employment, and housing, as well as clothing and other items they need.
They accept financial donations online, and provide details on the kinds of donations they need most, and offer other suggestions for how you can help, including simply smiling and saying hello. They also have a one-page overview explaining how you can best help.
Physical donations for their clients can be dropped off at 201 East Baltimore St. They are always in need of socks, t-shirts, shoes, pants, jackets, hats, coats, and rain gear.
If you are in a position to give new items, either directly to people you encounter on the streets or to organizations, Nate advised that new socks are considered a great luxury and are always in high demand.
Minor medical ailments like athlete’s foot can become serious health threats without access to treatment. Foot fungus can be worsened due to lack of fresh socks, and it can be spread through used socks. A pack of socks can make a significant difference to a homeless person for very little money. Consider keeping a supply in your car to give out instead of cash.
Healthcare for the Homeless also helps people access support services, including assistance getting birth certificates, Social Security cards, and other documents that are often barriers to gaining employment and housing.
One of the biggest obstacles to obtaining housing is the required first month’s rent and security deposit. Healthcare for the Homeless uses donations to help ease the burden of these required upfront payments, and also helps provide furnishings for apartments, as well as home welcoming kits.
Donate Your Time
Continuum of Care provides local, hands-on outreach, going out and working directly with people experiencing homelessness. If you want to see Baltimore’s homeless people dealt with humanely and with great results, give time to this organization. They always need more hands and will provide training.
Regarding recent concerns regarding trash generated by the homeless encampment at the intersection of North Ave. and I-83, Nate recommended that we continue to keep Councilman Costello appraised of any noticeable changes (or lack thereof) as the City determines who is responsible for the area.
We also discussed the possibility of a one-time cleanup effort supported through a partnership with Nate and his team in order to get the area cleaned until it gets on the a regular cleaning rotation. Stay tuned for more information on this.