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Task force examines homelessness in Hagerstown

November 30, 1999|By DAN DEARTH

Roughly 137 homeless adults and 73 homeless children live in Washington County at any given time, according to statistics from the Mayor's Task Force on Homelessness.

Formed in October, the task force was created to learn more about the homeless situation in Hagerstown, Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said. Its members will meet for the last time Wednesday to discuss their findings.

"It will help us get a grip on who's homeless, why they're homeless and how long," he said.

The task force's goal is to help as many homeless people as possible get back on their feet, Bruchey said.

Statistics on the local homeless situation were gathered for the most part at shelters, he said.

A lot of people thought the homeless population in Hagerstown was transient, Bruchey said. The studies showed that most of the city's homeless, however, once had a home in the city or another part of Washington County, he said.

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Although some people like to live a homeless life, the mayor said others have experienced a catastrophe in their lives, such as alcohol or drug addiction.

Task force facilitator Dale Bannon said about 40 people, including representatives from the police and religious community who deal directly with the homeless, participated on the task force.

One of the topics that the task force will discuss at the final meeting is the prisoner release system, Bannon said.

As it stands, inmates from local prisons are released in Hagerstown, Bannon said. In some cases, those inmates join the city's homeless population, he said.

Bannon said one way to alleviate that problem would be to push for a program that releases prisoners in the county where they were arrested.

In addition, Bannon said the task force wants to start a day shelter so homeless people have a place to stay warm in the winter.

The day shelter would offer classes that homeless people could use to gain job skills and find employment, Bannon said. With a job, he said people would have a better chance to afford housing.

Bannon said he isn't sure how much programs would cost to help the homeless.

"We're working on a dollar amount," he said.

The task force will present its findings to the Hagerstown City Council and the Washington County Commissioners within the next few months, Bannon said.

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