Someone puts soup into a bowl.
Photo courtesy of congerdesign/

In this issue, I want to discuss the state of services in homeless shelters and drop-in centers throughout the Baltimore area. As I go from service provider to service provider, I have noticed the dire need for additional services to accommodate those in need. Just last month I was on the More Betterman Show on WOL-AM 1450 discussing this issue. Baltimore truly needs more homeless services.

I once brought this to the attention of Mayor Marin O’Malley’s office. I received a response from Baltimore’s Homeless Services detailing everything they were doing to assist the homeless. While this is all well and good, what Baltimore is not doing is going directly to the homeless and asking them what they need in a shelter or drop-in center.

The things they really need are laundry services, more access to clothing, and better mail service. Currently, mail pickup is from 10am to 2am or 6pm to 8pm. For many, these are just not the right times to accommodate people with jobs. Drop-in stations need to open for homeless and poor families. Places such as churches and community kitchens need to extend their hours.

However, volunteers are a problem as well. Volunteer opportunities are available to help those in need, and I strongly encourage you to give your time and talent to help. If you are in Baltimore and looking for volunteer opportunities, you can contact Baltimore Homeless Services. You’ll find the number under Baltimore City Government.

Or, you can contact any local service provider. Among those in the Baltimore area the Helping Up Mission, the Baltimore Rescue Mission, the Oasis Drop-In Center, St. Ann’s Church Shelter, Our Daily Bread, the Beans and Bread Outreach Center, the Bethel Outreach Center and the Code Blue Emergency Shelter during the winter. There are a host of others where you can volunteer, as well, or even serve on a board of directors or steering committee.

The sad thing about all of this is that no matter what service providers say about the progress they are making, they are still communing up short in meeting the main needs of the homeless. No matter how many buildings they open, they are still missing some vital needs of the homeless. This is why it is so important that you – prospective volunteers – help to meet those needs. To the many church members who come by to serve breakfast to the homeless, your kindness is appreciated. However, I am afraid that this is just not enough.

Spiritual encouragement is fine, and it does give some hope in one’s life. But the complaints I keep hearing from the homeless are that the church “will not put money in my pocket” and “the church will not pay my bills.” Maybe what needs to happen is that more churches need to become more involved in their communities and find out what it is that their communities really need. Some churches start helping and then they just stop. The question is why. Maybe they lack finds; maybe there is just a lack of interest. Whatever the reason, the involvement of churches in their communities is most desperately needed. Homelessness is not decreasing. It is continually increasing. We need to step in to combat it.