By Reginald L Allen II
Special to the AFRO

Baltimore Mayor’s Office of Homeless Services reported 2,294 homeless individuals in their 2019 point-in-time count, pre-COVID. With a high rate of unemployment due to the pandemic, there has been another layer added to the city’s homelessness problem. Nevertheless, a nationwide eviction moratorium has helped protect some residents from losing their home.

Recently, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) updated the eviction protection order to be effective through Oct. 3, in areas of substantial and high transmission.

Through the federal government, emergency rental assistance is available, but it has been hard to access for some residents. Organizations like Govans Ecumenical Development Corporation (GEDCO) have been working to support the communities who need help. According to Baltimore’s Mayor’s Office of Homeless Services, the 2020 point-in-time count found 2,193 people homeless; a 4.4% decrease from 2019’s 2,294.

GEDCO’s division, CARES, has provided rental, utility and prescription assistance to assure they keep individuals and families in their home. In 2021, GEDCO has provided a total of $60,982 in assistance to 135 households.

Dana Mark, a resident of Baltimore for over 50 years, faced a family crisis and needed support to find another home. Mark contacted 211, Maryland’s call center for health and human resources, and requested rental assistance. She was provided a list of organizations that could help, but only GEDCO was willing to assist her. 

Mark contacted the organization and within a week, they got in touch with her landlord and confirmed her information. One month later, she was able to move into her new home with ease.

To combat this, Nichole Battle, CEO of GEDCO said that through GEDCO CARES they have serviced more than 500 people within the last year. Though they cannot pay resident’s bills every month, they have made an effort to grant $200 to $500 to a resident-in-need twice a year, with extreme cases being up to $1,000.

Battle said their future goal is to increase affordable housing, preserve the housing provided and to continue redeveloping communities. She emphasized the need for more workforce programs like theirs to give city residents opportunities. A project she wants to finish is the Stadium Place residence that will house more than 400 older adults. For older adults and homeless individuals, GEDCO provided affordable residences in over 6 locations across North Baltimore.

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