October 8, 2015 at 3:07 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Survey to count Md. homeless population

Rich Madaleno, Maryland, Democratic Party, Montgomery County, gay news, Washington Blade

Gay state. Sen. Rich Madaleno, along with state Del. Mary Washington, are spearheading efforts to count Maryland’s homeless population. (Washington Blade file photo by Jeff Surprenant)

Maryland lawmakers and advocates have counted for the first time the number of homeless youth and young adults who live in the state.

The count — known as Youth Reach Md. — began on Sept. 28 and continued through Oct. 5. It took place in Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Prince George’s and Washington Counties alongside the Lower Eastern Shore.

The survey asked respondents a series of questions, including those that focus on their sexual orientation and gender identity and race. It also seeks to identify the reason why they are homeless and whether they have been able to access services.

The University of Maryland School of Social Work will compile the results into a report that the Maryland Departments of Housing and Community Development and Planning will review. A final report is expected to be released to the General Assembly early next year.

State Del. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City) and state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) are among those spearheading the effort. The two gay lawmakers co-chair the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Ending Homelessness.

“Establishing a process that engages youth experiencing homelessness in reaching out to peers and informing solutions is critical to addressing this problem,” Washington told the Washington Blade. “This issue has been at the heart of my legislative agenda for over three years, and I’m so pleased to be working with committed experts and volunteers in the field to develop real solutions.”

Madaleno said the survey will “really allow us to understand the scope of the problem we are facing.”

“We know there are young people on the street, but we don’t know how many there are and how they ended up in that situation,” the Montgomery County Democrat told the Blade. “This survey will help us to determine the underlying issues for youths experiencing homelessness. It is important for us to get a better understanding of these factors so we can determine how best to allocate resources.

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan supports the initiative.

“Getting an accurate count of the number of homeless youth in our state is Maryland’s first step forward in assuring that every young person enjoys the benefits of a safe, secure and nurturing home,” said the governor in a statement that Washington provided to the Blade.

Studies indicate that up to 40 percent of homeless youth in the U.S. are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Ingrid Löfgren of the Homeless Persons Representations Project, a Baltimore-based organization that advocates on behalf of those who are homeless, noted to the Blade that there is a lack of data in Maryland to effectively gauge the problem in the state.

She said the survey will allow her and other advocates to more effectively respond to homeless in Maryland.

“We want to move quickly from data collection to concrete action to address their needs and systemic problems that perpetuate youth and young adult homelessness,” said Löfgren.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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