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Valerie Bonk is a multimedia reporter and community engagement specialist with Montgomery Community Media as well as a dance teacher, choreographer and proud former homeschooler. Her blog will uncover the untold stories of Montgomery County and introduce diverse people and businesses of interest in the community. She can be reached... Read more

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Survey Shows ‘Life and Death’ Crisis for County’s Homeless

Jasper Young speaks about his experience as a homeless man as council members George Leventhal and Craig Rice look on.

Jasper Young speaks about his experience as a homeless man as Councilmember George Leventhal and Council Vice President Craig Rice look on.

It can happen to anyone.

Jasper Young and his wife divorced and he quickly found himself thrown into homelessness, unable to afford food, healthcare, or a place to live.

He found himself at the Home Builders Care Assessment Center in Montgomery County, in worse shape than he realized. The staff helped place him in a permanent home in Germantown, and got him medical attention days before it would’ve been too late.

When Young went to the doctor for his heart, they transferred him to the hospital for a major surgery that would save his life, taking a vein from his leg and replacing the connection to his heart.

If it wasn’t for the Montgomery County homeless shelter staff, Young wouldn’t be here today, yet he was standing in front of a crowd of residents and volunteers Wednesday morning thanking those who helped him and advocating for the county’s homeless.

“It’s not about me. It’s about helping someone else,” Young said. “I thank God for you all. Things happen in people’s life but I don’t let none of that get me down. It just was a big blessing.”

Young’s story was the background of a community briefing on a recent survey by local volunteers with the 100,000 HOMES Campaign, an effort to find permanent homes for the nation’s homeless. The Montgomery County 100,000 HOMES Campaign is a joint effort that includes Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless and the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services, among other government agencies, non-profits and organizations.

As part of the mission, 300 county staff, community members and public servants volunteered to help during “registry week” – a period between Nov. 4 – 6 where volunteers got up before the sunrise at 4 a.m. and hit the ground running to survey and register the county’s homeless on the street as well as in jails, hospitals and shelters. The goal was to get a grasp of the issue and include them in a list of individuals that need assistance finding permanent homes.

George Leventhal speaks during the 10,000 HOMES Campaign community update meeting.

Councilmember George Leventhal speaks during the 100,000 HOMES Campaign community update meeting. Photo | Montgomery County

The results were read and an audible gasp was heard from the audience. During the survey period, volunteers talked to 369 homeless individuals, finding 47 percent that reported having at least one serious health condition.

The “hot spots” where the most homeless people were discovered includes Rockville, Aspen Hill, Gaithersburg, Germantown, White Flint, Silver Spring, Bethesda, Wheaton, Glenmont, Langley Park, Chevy Chase, Hilldale, and White Oak.

“I’ve always said that in order to fully address a problem, you must first recognize that you have a problem. And believe it or not there are far too many people in Montgomery County who are not aware of the nature of the complex problem of homelessness in the county,” said County Executive Ike Leggett.

Going forward, County Councilmember George Leventhal, who has been instrumental in getting Montgomery County involved in the 1000,000 HOMES Campaign, said that the county needs to focus on increasing the supply of affordable housing in order to get people off of the streets.

Along with Council Vice President Craig Rice, Leventhal said he is introducing a supplemental appropriation for $700,000 to house 15 homeless individuals “right away.” The funds will go towards housing 15 clients for a year and a half along with the case work and staff support that’s necessary.

“We’ve been delving deep into this, we’ve been doing the work, we’ve been doing the research,” Leventhal said. “We’ve all learned from each other, we’re working together much more closely than we ever did before and we’re going to keep the momentum going.”

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Valerie Bonk

About Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk is a multimedia reporter and community engagement specialist with Montgomery Community Media (MCM).

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