Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake Feb. 25 announced she has joined with the Fuel Fund of Maryland and Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE) to help local homeless persons overcome a major obstacle to permanent housing—overdue (BGE) bills.

The mayor unveiled the Power of Home, a Fuel Fund program to address unpaid utility bills that block the move from a homeless shelter into permanent housing. Overdue utility bills are frequently part of the cascade of calamities that result in homelessness, according to homeless advocates.

“The Power of Home is another step in the right direction toward making homelessness rare and brief in Baltimore,” Rawlings-Blake said at a news conference. “Taking practical steps like resolving past-due utility bills removes a huge barrier that keeps too many families from transitioning from a shelter to permanent housing.”

The Journey Home, the mayor’s initiative to end homelessness, is contributing $5,000 to the Power of Home to the effort to clear up unpaid utility bills.

BGE is providing $20,000 in bill credits and the Weinberg Foundation is donating $20,000 toward the cause.

The mayor said, “This is a powerful example of the Baltimore community coming together to assist our most vulnerable residents.”

In data underscoring this winter’s brutal toll on ratepayers, Power of Home officials said one-third of the non-profit’s clients average outstanding BGE debt of $1,268, with some outstanding bills exceeding $5,000.

Baltimore Gas and Electric Senior Vice President for regulatory and external affairs Calvin G. Butler Jr. said during the news conference, “at BGE, we are committed to supporting the communities in which we live and work and are pleased to be a part of the tremendous work being done by the Baltimore City Journey Home campaign.”

Butler said last fall he heard, first-hand, success stories of city residents who made their way out of homelessness. “I couldn’t help being moved by the strength and determination these individuals displayed to overcome the tough breaks that life can sometimes send our way.”

“When those who have endured homelessness are able to take the steps needed to put a roof over their heads, BGE is pleased to support them in their efforts by providing bill credits to these individuals, through The Power of Home program, to help them in their efforts to get their families into a new home,” Butler said.