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Homelessness and Housing

The Dripby Louis Krauss12:00 pmMay 27, 20200

Activists again call on the city to empty shelters to protect the homeless

Congregate living in two former school buildings is not safe, advocates argue

Above: Signs placed in front of City Hall today call for Baltimore to get people out of shelters. (Housing Our Neighbors/ Fair Development Roundtable)

Dozens of signs were erected in Baltimore’s War Memorial Plaza this morning demanding that Baltimore clear out its shelters to protect homeless people from Covid-19.

“Empty Shelters Now” and “Homeless Can’t Stay Home” say the red-and-black signs in front of City Hall.

The signs were placed there by Housing Our Neighbors and the Fair Development Roundtable, advocacy groups that have been pushing Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young to move people out of congregate living spaces and develop affordable housing for city residents.

Last month, the city did move people out of its main Weinberg shelter on the Fallsway after an outbreak there and has placed some of the homeless in motel rooms.

But nearly 300 people are currently being housed at two former schools, Pinderhughes and Kipp Ujima Village Academy, where they are unable to maintain safe social distancing, according to activists.

“People are still sharing the same bathrooms, the same eating area,” said Rachel Kutler of Housing Our Neighbors. “There might be extra space between beds, but there’s still no access to safe social distancing.”

Although beds have been spread apart to have six feet between them, the distancing is not maintained when residents go about their daily routines inside the shelters, Kutler said.

Currently, 156 men are in the former Kipp school and more than 130 are in Pinderhughes. “No one has been tested yet” at Pinderhughes, Kutler said.

Sheryl Goldstein, the mayor’s chief of staff for operations, did not respond to a request for comment.

Goldstein was assigned to supervise Homeless Services earlier this month when its director, Jerrianne Anthony, was abruptly placed on leave.

Long-term Solution

In the wake of the disruption in homeless services amid the pandemic, Kutler said that her group has been administering a survey of shelter residents, which will soon be shared at a town hall meeting.

Since the coronavirus outbreak began in Maryland, the city has moved about 300 homeless people into several hotels, including one location reserved for homeless people who test positive or show symptoms of Covid-19.

Most of those transported to hotels were considered high-risk due to their age and health conditions, and are over 62.

While hotels are a short-term solution, Kutler said the advocacy groups’ larger goal is for the city to open up more permanent housing.

At an April 6 virtual public meeting, Goldstein said there were roughly 1,180 homeless people in Baltimore, including 800 who were staying in shelters.

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