Navigation Bar




By Retha Hill
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 4, 1989 ; Page D04

Prince George's County Executive Parris Glendening said yesterday that the county will allow the homeless to seek emergency shelter in some county government buildings for the first time this winter.

"We will use as many public facilities as possible if needed," Glendening said. County government sources said the executive is expected to unveil a plan within a few weeks. The County Council also is scheduled to announce plans in November to promote so-called affordable housing.

Glendening made the comments at a news conference announcing Prince George's participation in the Housing Now! march on Washington, scheduled for Saturday.

His commitment to open public buildings for shelters came as advocates for the homeless have stepped up pressure on the county government to increase the amount of emergency shelter space and to expand programs for transitional and affordable housing.

Last week, a coalition of church groups and service providers released a report that shows that Prince George's has the highest rate of homeless children in the state and the second-highest rate of homeless families, behind Baltimore County. The coalition's report recommended that public facilities be used for emergency shelter.

"I would like to see this county make the commitment that at the very least we will have no more homeless children this winter," said Mosi Harrington, homeless program coordinator for Community Ministry of Prince George's County.

The county has increased the number of shelter beds fourfold since 1982, to more than 200, but it has had no policy to allow the homeless to stay overnight in public buildings in the winter. On extremely cold nights, the District and Baltimore shelter the homeless in public facilities.

At the news conference, Glendening and advocates for the homeless said county and state initiatives to help the homeless must be matched by an increase in federal housing assistance, which has been cut from $32 billion to $8 billion since 1981. In Prince George's, an applicant for public housing waits an average of seven years, Glendening said.

"At the state and local level it means constantly trying to catch up," said Glendening, who will participate in the march on the Capitol along with an expected 1,000 other county residents.

Thousands of people from throughout the country are expected for the march to encourage the government to restore money to federal low-income housing programs. About 300 people, many of them homeless in New York City, have marched down the East Coast to join the march. They were expected to spend the night at Prince George's Community College last night before heading into the District.

Meanwhile, march organizers held a news conference yesterday at the National Press Club to issue sometimes emotional appeals for a massive turnout on Saturday.

"I beg and plead for every human being with a conscience of good to join us," said actor Jon Voight, who at one point choked back tears as he recounted efforts in Hollywood to build support for the march.

"Everybody who is not fabulously wealthy has reason to be here," said Mitch Snyder, leader of the Community for Creative Non-Violence and co-chairman of the march.

The report on homelessness in Prince George's, released last week by the county's Coalition for the Homeless, showed 800 people are homeless in the county on any given night. About 600 of them are turned away from shelters each day. Last year, 5,153 were turned away. Of the homeless, 53 percent in Prince George's are families, compared with 80 percent in Baltimore County, 30 percent in Montgomery and 17 percent in the city of Baltimore.

Children make up 55 percent of the homeless in Prince George's, the highest rate in the state. Montgomery, with 34 percent, has the second highest.

The rising cost of housing in the county, once affordable by national standards, is a key factor, the report's authors said. The fair market value of a two-bedroom apartment is $641 a month in both Prince George's and Montgomery, the report said.

Yet Prince George's has a higher rate of eviction than Montgomery, according to the report, which collected data from local governments and shelter providers. Last year, the Prince George's Sheriff's Department evicted 4,000 persons and Montgomery evicted 1,300.

Staff writer Steve Twomey contributed to this report.

Articles appear as they were originally printed in The Washington Post and may not include subsequent corrections.

Return to Search Results
Navigation Bar