HPRP’s mission to end homelessness in Maryland is grounded in our understanding that homelessness is a solvable problem.
Homelessness worsened dramatically during the last several decades due primarily to certain structural factors. Changes in the American economy, including a shift from well-paying manufacturing jobs to minimum wage service jobs and temporary or part-time positions, caused exponential growth in the number of households living in or near poverty.
Social services programs have been unable to keep pace with increasing demand due to a lack of expansion of government safety net programs. At the same time, rising housing costs coupled with government disinvestment in housing subsidies has resulted in a shortage of housing that is affordable for households with low incomes.
People and communities of color, people with disabilities, and single women with children have been disproportionately affected by these trends. Norms and attitudes stigmatizing people experiencing homelessness are a persistent barrier to policy change addressing the structural causes of homelessness.
The Current State of Homelessness in Maryland and in Baltimore City
Maryland is the fourth most expensive state in the nation and also one of only four states with a housing wage above $21 an hour. In the Baltimore region, a family renting a two-bedroom apartment would have to earn wages equal to at least $24.08 per hour to afford the apartment. Currently, one in four Baltimore residents live at or below the poverty level and homelessness has not declined in the city in five years. Indeed, the January 2013 Baltimore City Census identified 2,638 people experiencing homelessness, a slight increase over the 2007 Census, which identified 2,607 homeless people.
Homelessness among youth between the ages of 13 and 25 is increasing in Baltimore City. A report issued in 2011 by the Center for Adolescent Health at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health found 1,784 unduplicated homeless youth, including 640 youth who were unaccompanied by a parent or guardian. The 640 unaccompanied homeless youth represented a 50 percent increase in the number of unaccompanied homeless youth in Baltimore since the previous count in January 2009. Prince George’s and Montgomery counties have each conducted one count of homeless youth. Both counties identified nearly 200 unaccompanied homeless youth within their borders.
Baltimore City has and continues to have the highest number of homeless people in the state. Montgomery County has the second highest number, followed by Baltimore County, the southern Maryland tri-county region (Charles, St. Mary’s, and Calvert) and Prince George’s County. In the rural counties, homeless veterans comprise a far greater percentage than the statewide average of approximately 8 percent. Indeed, in the Harford/Cecil County areas, veterans comprise 22 percent of the homeless population.
HPRP seeks to end homelessness through legal services and systemic advocacy to promote public awareness of homelessness, build political will for solutions, and increase access to affordable housing, income, and safety net programs.