Talking About Affordable Housing

Awareness in our community that we have neighbors who are homeless, and many, many more experiencing poverty has reached a peak. There is more to be done, yet we see evidence and strength in the movement to end homelessness in our community.

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The public demonstration project, “A Garden in Winter” comes to mind – that movement blew up on Facebook. I have received countless emails, texts, and instant messages asking me “what can I do?” Awareness is a powerful and critical tool in moving our community toward action.

To know how to move forward, we have to understand where the conversation is going. Frederick County had an early ‘win’ in extending the Alan P. Linton Shelter from a cold shelter for single adults to a year-round emergency shelter. Yet we knew this was no cure-all and we had more work to do.

faithhousefaces260x175Then, when we had the Faith House fight we knew the conversation was not yet ready to progress beyond the provision of shelter. This time we had to talk about zoning and reject the use of zoning as a barrier to the provision of affordable housing. Faith House is a shelter that is 100%-run by a non-profit and uses no government funds. The case for rezoning was clean and appropriate and the few objections, some extreme in nature, were heard. Advocates had an opportunity to discuss zoning, a fair process, and the true scale of our need.

Now, on to what’s next. We know shelter isn’t a solution – it one basic service to offer for emergencies. We know we need a broad spectrum of affordable housing options, and we needed them yesterday. Unfortunately there will always be a need for emergency shelter. Yet with proper case management, we can move the needle and provide effective services.

Several conversations about these issues are ongoing in Frederick County, now including the Affordable Housing Speaker Series. Effective advocacy means keeping tabs on all the moving parts. This is challenging, but the single most important thing we can do is come together on solutions and then take action. Can we tie all of these conversations together to agree and move forward? Can we unite under one banner of action to empower our neighbors with safe housing?

I think so.

The Frederick County Coalition for the Homeless will publish a strategic plan. Betsy Day is the Coalition’s Strategic Planning Committee Chairman and Todd Johnson has been a leader at the Community Action Agency to get this done. Todd can be reached at tjohnson@cityoffrederick.com. I encourage you to reach out and learn more about this landmark report that will be a part of this conversation in the year to come.

The Affordable Housing Council of Frederick County will publish a snap shot document supporting the Coalition’s strategic planning effort. This paper is entitled the “State of Affordable Housing Frederick County” and seeks to establish a baseline for the conversation to move forward.

County Executive Jan Gardner created four leadership teams to address key issues during her initial transition to office: education, job creation, senior citizens and community needs. The County Executive’s Community Needs Team published a summary document with three goals. The first being to “Develop a Path to Stable Affordable Housing”. Among the recommendations included in this goal: Identifying gaps in the continuum of housing in the county.

Finally, I am excited to announce the launch of the Affordable Housing Speaker Series for Frederick County, which begins on March 18th with the first in a series of speakers focusing on affordable housing issues in Frederick County. This first event, entitled, “Affordable Housing in Frederick County: Moving Beyond Shelter” will feature Dean Klein, Director of the Fairfax County Office to Prevent and End Homelessness (OPEH).

Dean Klein is the first director of OPEH, having taken over the helm of the new agency on March 3, 2009. He was recently appointed to lead the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Partnership to Prevent and End Homelessness He previously worked at the Freddie Mac Foundation where he collaborated and oversaw corporate philanthropic investments to 100 local and national homelessness housing nonprofits and initiated and managed an $800,000 Housing First grant for the for the National Alliance to End Homelessness in three localities in the national capital region.

FCClogo260wThe evening will begin at 7:00pm and will be held at the Frederick Community College Conference Center (Rm E126, 7932 Opossumtown Pike). Doors open at 6:30pm.

The Affordable Housing Speaker Series is presented by the Affordable Housing Council, Alderman Josh Bokee, Community Alternative Mediation (CALM), The Prosperity Center, and United Way of Frederick County. Ryan Trout, Chair of the Frederick County Affordable Housing Council, will offer a presentation on the state of affordable housing in Frederick County. We hope to have an update from the Coalition’s strategic planning efforts as well.

The second speaker series event will be held in May.The May speaker will be announced at the March event.

Please join us in collaboration. We can learn from others to identify options for moving forward.


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Affordable Housing Speaker Series on Facebook

Frederick News Post
Affordable Housing Speaker Series
Saturday, March 7, 2015
by Karen James

Envision Frederick County
Support a 12-Month Homeless Shelter in Frederick
March 18, 2014
by Katie Nash

Envision Frederick County
Faith House: The Elephant on North Market Street
December 9, 2014
by Katie Nash