(Feb. 8, 2013) An attempt was made last week to determine the number of homeless people in Worcester County. Although results of the survey most likely will not be tabulated and released for a few weeks, more than 35 homeless people were counted in Worcester County, according to Jessica Sexauer of the Core Service Agency at the Worcester County Health Department. That number did not include guests at shelters.
“We try to get the most accurate count to show the need in the area to get resources and funding to support housing,” said Sexauer, who also is chair-
woman of the Point in Time survey.
Past results have shown an increase in the number of homeless veterans. Because of that finding, some subsidized housing is now available in the tri-county area of Worcester, Wicomico and Somerset county for veterans.
Some of the 30-plus counters participating in the nationwide Point in Time survey last week were at the Worcester County Health Department and the Department of Social Services. Others were at churches and at Diakonia, the crisis shelter in West Ocean City, and at Samari-
tan Shelter in Pocomoke. Still others went to the WAC Center on Route 50 between Ocean City and Berlin.
In Worcester County in 2012, Diakonia in West Ocean City and the Samaritan Shelter in Pocomoke sheltered 701 people, but turned away 2,628 because of lack of space.
It is difficult to count the homeless because the shelters do not have room for them all. Some of them might be living with friends or relatives. Some homeless people spend a few nights with one friend, then a few nights with another friend and so on. Sometimes, two families will live in one house.
“People are usually doubled-up,” said Claudia Nagle, executive director of Diakonia, last week.
Because the roof over their head is not theirs, they qualify as being homeless.
Some people live in tents in wooded areas. During past Point in Time surveys, living areas that included tables and chairs were found in a wooded area near West Ocean City. Signs of such habitation were found again last week, Nagle said.
“We go and look during the day, but [the homeless] find other things to do during the day,” Sexauer said.
Although a few people might be living in the woods, people are not living on the streets in Worcester County the way some might be living in cities.
Most of the homeless in the county are indistinguishable from others.
“They don’t look like the man with a sign saying, ‘Will work for food,’ “ Nagle said.
To reach out and offer resources to homeless people or people on the verge of becoming homeless, the Worcester County Homeless Committee has been organizing Community Resource Days at various soup kitchens at churches. Last Wednesday, they were at Snow Hill Christian Church. They have also been to United Methodist Church in Ocean City.
During these Community Resource Days, representatives of the Worcester County Health Department’s Core Service Agency and other agencies and groups have provided information about available resources and where to get help with medical needs, housing, treatment for addictions and more.
The Core Service Agency also provides information about how people in need can obtain birth certificates or state identification cards. Proper identification is needed so people can receive certain services, medical insurance and more. The agency also helps the disabled get Social Security.
Although up to a quarter of the homeless suffer from a mental illness, others have been gainfully employed, but lost jobs because of the economy. In the Ocean City area, many people work only during the busy tourist season. Others in the area lost jobs when businesses downsized or closed.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires every state and U.S. territory to conduct the survey annually. In even-numbered years, only guests at homeless shelters are counted. In odd-numbered years, unsheltered people are also counted.
WHO CAN HELP?
To help the homeless and other needy persons, people may donate food to any church with a soup kitchen or food pantry. Some soup kitchens, such as the Spirit Kitchen at Stevenson United Methodist Church in Berlin, also give out personal care items if people donate them. Items often needed include soap, hand-washing liquid, shampoo, moisturizers, deodorant, diapers, toilet tissue and facial tissues.
Atlantic United Methodist Church
Fourth Street, Ocean City
Every Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Stevenson United Methodist
123 N. Main St., Berlin
‘Spirit Kitchen’ soup kitchen
Every Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
St. Paul’s By The Sea Episcopal
302 N. Baltimore Ave., Ocean City
Shepherd’s Crook food pantry:
Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to noon
St. Peter’s Lutheran
103rd Street, Ocean City
Open Kettle soup and sandwich
Every Wednesday, noon to 2 p.m.
Son Spot Ministries
12 Worcester St., Ocean City
Dinner: Every Thursday, 5:30 p.m.
102 Worcester St., Ocean City
Breakfast: Every Sunday, 10 a.m.
Dinner: Every Monday and Friday, 5-7 p.m.