Friday, May 3, 2013

Columbus --> Howard --> Maryland (Friday LINKS)

Yesterday, County Executive Ken Ulman announced that the County will be purchasing an 8 acre lot near the intersection of Route 1 and Route 32 to build a 30-unit supportive housing facility and a new Day Resource Center.  The lot costs the County $3.25 million and offers opportunity not only in ending homelessness, but also in building more affordable housing into the future as individuals transition upward in integration.

This is big.  This is also a huge improvement from the Beachcrest proposal, which brought with it community angst and unworkable logistics.  Comparatively, Beachcrest was an "if we have to" and this new property is a "yes, we must."

Last night's forum for Ending Homelessness was also a great success.  There were approximately 40 people there, including four County Council members (Ball, Watson, Terrasa, & Fox) and two members of the House of Delegates (Turner & Guzzone).

Did you know that Columbus, Ohio ended homelessness?  In Columbus, the average length of homelessness is 21 days.  The Nationally recognized goal standard is 30 days.  Columbus took a targeted approach, advocated for by national experts, to veterans, disabled/chronically homeless, and families.  The City developed housing first programs and capital projects to increase supply and get people into their own homes.  Having done so, community resources aligned themselves with permanent housing, and homelessness became the exception.

Why did I highlight "getting people into their own homes"?  Because we are not talking about emergency shelters.  Shelters serve a critical purpose, but that purpose does not include "solving homelessness".  As Norm Sucher from the National Alliance to End Homelessness explained last night, municipalities have been treating emergency shelters like triage units, providing all of the social services one may need to get out of homelessness on-site, but then disconnecting as soon as the individual leaves the structure.  He notes that one of the most important things to prevent homelessness and maintain housing stability is connection to the community; having a foundation to stand on.

I often think of homelessness in metaphors.  Our society can very well be described as a speeding train, mostly ignorant of those who are trying to get on-board or barely hanging to the doors.  When you fall off, everyone inside the train looks out the window, commenting to one another how easy it is to just sit and ride, and wondering what you did wrong.  It is much harder to get someone back up to speed than it is to merely make sure they don't fall off in the first place.

Job, Health, Divorce, Driver's License.  Those are the things that shake us loose.  I don't know too many people that could have more than one of those things go wrong and still stay on their feet.

The good news is that Norm said Howard County is following the right model and is making all the right moves.  Based on his presentation, I don't think Norm would blow smoke on this.  Looking around the State, Howard County is making greater strides in a shorter amount of time than any of our surrounding jurisdictions.  And we need to.  The problem with Howard is that we have such a huge gap in housing affordability that falling off the train is all too easy.  But with Ken Ulman's dedicated support of the Plan to End Homelessness over the past two years, with over $1 million in operating budget allocations, and the focus on building a structure along Route 1, we can follow Columbus's lead...and be a model for Maryland.


Delegate Guy Guzzone will stay in Annapolis in 2014.  This story has been cast in terms of the County Executive race, but I don't think that's fair to Guy.  He is quickly becoming one of the most influential representatives in Annapolis and his decision to continue to serve in the General Assembly means there are only better things to come.  As Senator Miller and Delegate Busch have shown, having a powerful representative in the State House can mean very good things for the municipality you represent.  Congratulations to Delegate Guzzone for his decision.  (Congratulations to everyone else that did not want to have to run against him in a primary.)

As expected, the Columbia Council elections have led to vastly different interpretations of the results.  I'm not willing to take much meaning from an election that barely registers 1% of the eligible voters and I think that is a reasonable position to hold.  It also seems somewhat contradictory to say that those contested elections with large margins of victory mean something, while uncontested elections should be dismissed.  Isn't an uncontested election the largest margin of them all?

The Sun notes that the Northrop Real Estate group is facing an $11 million lawsuit filed in March alleging kickbacks between Northrop and Lakeview Title Company.

Featured Blog Post of the Day:  Frank Hecker looks at the "long game" in Columbia Council elections, which bears attention if we are ever going to have representative turnout for these kinds of elections.  That's not to say the outcome will change, but we need to get more people to the polls.

MARK YOUR CALENDARS!!  The 10th Annual Howard County Boat Float is June 8th and is sure to be an awesome day on the Lakefront.  Admit it, you've passed the Lake recently and said to yourself "That is such a nice place, I should go there more."  Here's your chance!  Mark it down.  Seriously.  Ok, thank you.

That's all for today.  Have a great Friday doing what you love!