Ocean City Today

Diakonia, county homeless committee start next steps

By Katie Tabeling | Oct 05, 2017
File Photo

(Oct. 6, 2017) Diakonia and other members of the Worcester County Homeless Committee are preparing to reach out to the area’s homeless population and see how they can help.

“We partner with a lot of different groups — local and county government, churches, the health department, hospitals — to knit together a safety net for the individuals and get them connected to mainstream services,” Diakonia Executive Director Claudia Nagle said.

“That partnership is critical. Our primary goal is to help [the homeless individuals] find housing so we can address other issues, such as if they need counseling or mental health treatment.”

The Worcester County Homeless Committee, which was established 14 years ago and meets quarterly, met last Wednesday to coordinate outreach efforts on two fronts: resource days and the point-in-time count.

Resource days are when Diakonia and other service providers meet with members of the homeless community at places such as the Atlantic Methodist Church’s soup kitchen, and offer assistance to those that are in need.

“It’s not the only time that we conduct outreach,” Nagle said. “But we do coordinate throughout the county because the needs of people in different communities are different. We also try to have a different representation of services that people might need to access. It’s sometimes easier to access it in that manner than to get transportation to Snow Hill.”

The point-in-time count is when organizations will count the homeless population in the county. This is to provide accurate data to help the Worcester County Homeless Committee with its planning.

Last January, 37 people were identified, a total that might have been affected by a change in outreach strategies that year.

“Usually, we count one or two, but these [37 people] did not become homeless over a year,” Nagle said. “We engaged a variety of groups; we went out early in the morning, and we shared information that we’d be doing the count for an all-encompassing approach.”

Diakonia also worked with police to identify homeless camps and educated others to be respectful when speaking with the people that live there.

Affordable housing for low-income families is one of the key problems in the tri-county area, she said. Speaking directly about Ocean City, jobs appear in the summer and disappear by the off-season, and affordable housing is hard to find in the warmer months.

“We receive about 200 calls a month looking for housing,” Nagle said. “Some of those might be repeat calls from the tri-county area, but it speaks to the number of families and people across the region that need assistance.”

Diakonia coordinates with other agencies in Worcester, Wicomico and Somerset counties to help provide housing. The nonprofit also supports veterans and families of veterans who have lost their housing in the tri-county area. Another service Diakonia provides is the Emergency Solutions Grant for homeless citizens and families in Worcester and Wicomico County.

Overall, the organization touches 11,000 people a year through its different services, including its food pantry and providing affordable items to those starting over at the thrift store.

Nagle said Diakonia maintains an open dialogue with the council and commissioners.

“We’re going to continue working with our partners, and build relationships with the disenfranchised,” she said. “Once you continue to get to know them, maybe one will decide to come in.”


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