Council considers homeless aid bill

May 25, 2006, midnight | By Justin Vlasits | 14 years, 8 months ago

County Council members introduced a bill on March 28 calling for a $1 million spending increase in rent subsidies and medical programs to combat rising homelessness in Montgomery County.

The bill could potentially affect a large percentage of the almost 800 Blair students on Free and Reduced Meals (FARMS) since the threshold for FARMS is only a few thousand dollars higher than the threshold to qualify for housing subsidies.

Proposed by Council member Steve Silverman (D-At Large) and Council President George Leventhal (D-At Large), the bill followed a Jan. 25 countywide survey, which indicated that approximately 1,164 homeless people live in the county, up nine percent from last year. Of the homeless surveyed, 26 percent were minors. Leventhal and Silverman believe that because of the limits on surveying methods, the results only reflect a quarter of the actual number of homeless people in the county.

Silverman and Leventhal are proposing this legislation in partnership with the Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless to expand the existing Partnership for Permanent Housing Program, in which the county subsidizes 80 percent of a formerly homeless person's rent. The bill aims to double the number of participating families from 50 to 100 this year and allot $500,000 to increase the frequency of medical van visits to homeless shelters.

If the bill passes, the county would subsidize 50 more households earning 30 percent or less of the county's median annual income, about $27,100 for a four-person family.

The county's rate of homelessness has increased due to rising housing costs, according to the Maryland Association of Realtors. A worker needs to earn $51.77 per hour to afford the county's median housing cost of $449,000, according to a presentation by Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele. The median hourly wage in Montgomery County is $18.50, according to the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

Even with this bill, Leventhal realizes that homelessness will still be an issue. "Ending homelessness in the county is something we are very committed to, though we must acknowledge that it is a complicated problem that is not amenable to quick and easy solutions," he said.

Justin Vlasits. Justin Vlasits is a CAP senior who enjoys It's Academic, baseball, guitar and frisbee in addition to watching weird movies and contemplating the meaning of life. Justin is also a revolutionary member of SGR and will someday overthrow oppressive capitalism all over the world. More »

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