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COVID and colder temps leave people in homeless encampment with little options

Posted at 10:31 PM, Nov 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-18 23:20:17-05

BALTIMORE — A sign posted under 83 telling the people living in homeless encampment they had until Wednesday to clear out caused an uproar at City Hall.

RELATED: City council passes bills to protect renters and end homelessness

It’s since been removed and shined the spotlight on the people living there who were frantically trying to figure out what to do.

WMAR reached out to the Mayor's office for a plan and went down to the encampment to see what they are hearing.

Peter Maynard showed me where he was living on the chilly windy night.

“I don’t have a mattress or anything,” Maynard said. “I throw what clothes I can find down, so I don’t get more hip problems or something like that.”

When we showed up, Maynard and many others were eager to tell us what’s been going on.

“They say there’s no slots available especially with this pandemic going on,” Maynard said. “A lot of places aren’t open, or you just have to get on a waiting list.”

A sign posted by the city threatening arrest caused an uproar with Baltimore City Councilman Ryan Dorsey calling on the Mayor's office to take it down.

On Monday, James Bentley, a spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office told us they would take the sign down and that no one would be arrested.

We reached out to him tonight to ask if there are hotels available for people tonight and if not, what services are available.

We haven’t heard back as of 11 p.m. Wednesday night.

The CDC has guidelines that state if you are going to clear an encampment you must provide somewhere for the people living there to go, and if you can’t they should be left where they are to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

In the meantime, as the temperatures dropped, these people say they are being turned away.

“I hear stories about how they try, and they got shut done,” said Dustin Rogers. “Even for example the hotels with the curfew. People work late at night, people have emergencies. We’re grown individuals why should there be a curfew? That’s just making a reason for someone to be kicked out.”

Christina Flowers describes herself as a shepherd for the homeless of Baltimore City.

She is out with her van giving out supplies and helping people every day.

“The shelters are not accessible to some individuals that don’t want to go, or they been banned out the shelter,” said Flowers. “Everybody got a reason they don’t want to go in the shelter.”

Karen Wabeke is a Senior Attorney with the Homeless Person’s Representation Project.

She has several clients living in this encampment.

“We’ve been working to try to connect folks to hotel rooms that are reportedly available only to be told today by the Mayor’s Office of Homeless Services that in fact there are no hotel beds available,” Wabeke said.

She said the posting of the sign and the subsequent lack of planning to have space for these people is a failure by the city.

“We’re 8 months into this pandemic,” Wabeke said. “This should not be a surprise to anyone that winter is coming. On a night this cold with a virus raging, numbers spiking. It’s unconscionable that anyone should be sleeping outside that doesn’t want to be on a night like tonight in Baltimore City.”

While all the food and clothing donations are helpful for the people living out here, what they need and want is permanent housing.