Grassroots Day Resource Center
A homeless survey conducted by the Local Board on Homelessness in September 2007 revealed at least 30 and possibly as many as 50 homeless persons living along the Rt 1 corridor without shelter. In December, advocates from the Board organized a pilot Homeless Outreach Project to determine the numbers, locations and needs of this population.
As a start, volunteers from two churches delivered food once weekly to homeless individuals and families on the street, in cars, vacant moving vans, and makeshift camps. It soon became apparent that in addition to food, these persons needed shelter from the elements, clothing, medical and mental health treatment, basic hygiene items, and access to social services. Volunteers responded to these needs as they appeared. News of the project quickly spread by word of mouth to both the homeless and other churches. By early February there were 30 churches and businesses involved, providing food three times weekly to as many as 35 persons.
The outreach determined that many of the homeless persons are unable or unwilling to access the social services system that might help them. Some suffer from mental illness that makes them unable to comprehend the process or trust the service providers. Some have tried to navigate through the system before and failed. Some are suffering from addictions that prevent them from setting any long term goals. Most are unable to access services because they do not have identification cards or Social Security cards and lack the money, communications, transportation and mailing address required to get a birth certificate, the first step in re-establishing official identity. Without ID they cannot be permanently employed. So they are stuck at the bottom; the first rung of the social services ladder out of reach. In some cases they have lost hope of ever improving their lot in life.
With enthusiastic support from the churches, local government and foundations, the Grassroots Day Resource Center was opened in July 2008 to better serve this population. The Center provides showers, laundry, clothing, internet access, phone, mailing address, basic living supplies, conversation and referrals to social services. The homeless consumers were involved in determining the services, hours of operation and policies. The Center is operated under the auspices of Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center, staffed by volunteers and guided by a project coordinator. In the first 3 months over 140 individuals were served.
By January of 2009, the Center had served over 250 individuals with numbers fluctuating between 35 and 70 a day. Over 40 different congregations were involved in supplying volunteers, food, supplies, funding and other resources. Our services grew to include a doctor and a nurse who helped us to address the myriad of health issues and a lawyer who was available once a week for consultation with clients.
In our fiscal year that ended in June 2016 we served 831 people, averaging 60 people a day. We gave away 399 pairs of shoes, over 52,000 food items, close to 13,000 clothing items, 22 tents, 54 tarps and 31 sleeping bags. We could not do this without the support of about 50 congregations in Howard County and the city of Laurel, as well as numerous organizations, companies, schools and individuals that run fundraisers, food and/or clothing drives, donate out of date but usable food and clothing items.
The summer of 2017 will finally bring us to our new building. We are looking forward to having a space all on one floor with new kitchen, shower and laundry facilities, an improved medical suite and designated office space for all the outside services we provide.
Our construction story.
The Day Resource Center evolved from an effort to learn more about the unsheltered homeless in Howard County by delivering food to them. This is the report of the first outreach attempt on Sunday, December 2, 2007.
30 sets of two bags were prepared by Alive Community Church.
Turkey/cheese sandwich, chips, orange, water. PBJ sandwich, clementine, candy bar, 7 oz can of pasta,
About 10 cars traveled to the site near 175 and US 1. No homeless appeared, due in part to rain. There was one tent sighted in the woods behind La Quinta motel. While we were waiting, a woman in a truck stopped and asked for food. She had seen one of the flyers distributed on Friday. She is believed to be a resident of the 175/95 camp.
We split into five groups to scout the area.