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March 31, 2010 - Four formally homeless Montgomery County families now have a home thanks to the efforts of a coalition of homeless assistance groups, county agencies and private contributors last week.

Theresa Holston, the single mother of a newborn daughter, was the latest to move into the Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless' four-unit home at 7901 Lockney Ave. in Takoma Park as County Executive Isiah Leggett and County Councilman George Leventhal joined coalition representatives and contributors at the house for a ribbon cutting March 24. The property, purchased for $700,000 from the county's Housing Initiative Fund, now houses four formerly homeless families.

The Partnership for Permanent Housing, one of the coalition's programs, aims to reintegrate homeless individuals and families into society by first giving them a place to live, then providing counseling from the county's Department of Health and Human Services specific to that family or individual's needs, according to Ted Smart, the president of the Home Builders Care Foundation, a member group of the coalition.

"We can't take care of the homeless; we can't get them back on the road to recovery without stabilizing them in a home, first," he said, while citing the importance of continuing such efforts countywide. "We still have a long way to go; last year, according to a [Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments] annual report, there were 168 homeless families counted in Montgomery County."

For his part, Leggett (D) agreed that such partnerships are important to chipping away at the county's lingering homelessness, while Leventhal (D-At large) of Takoma Park, was quick to point out the grand scale of the partnership's work in relation to the county's overall affordable housing efforts.

"We know that there's a need for work-force housing, but we also know that there is a need to reduce the incidence and prevalence of homelessness," Leventhal said at the ceremony. "Although economic conditions are bad, ... this is the perfect use of housing initiative funds; stabilizing a neighborhood so you won't have a vacant, foreclosed property; stabilizing the lives and providing hope for these families moving in and providing permanent, stable housing [for them]."

Beginning at humble roots in 2003 with 50 homes, the permanent housing partnership has since grown to more than 180 homes and apartment units provided to countless homeless, according to coalition Deputy Director Julie Maltzman. Individuals and families recommended to the program by county case workers are given 30 percent subsidies on payments along with individualized counseling to fit their needs; usually in job retention or money management.

"Since 2003 [the program] has been highly successful; we've served a lot of vulnerable people, and we feel that this program and others like it are the way to end homelessness in our community," she said.

By by Jeremy Arias | Staff Writer

reprinted with permission


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