A number of Montgomery County social service organizations are celebrating 25-year or 30-year anniversaries, something Bethesda Cares director Sue Kirk said many in the field did not expect would be happening when they started out.
“There was optimism in the very beginning that homelessness was a blip on the screen and that one set of social workers would probably solve a lot of these ills and we’d be looking for other things to do by now,” Kirk said. “Then homelessness didn’t go away.”
On Sunday, April 13, Bethesda Cares — the homeless prevention nonprofit that works with many of the roughly 75 chronically homeless in Bethesda — will celebrate its 25th.
The event, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Positano Ristorante Italiano (4948 Fairmont Ave.), will serve as a celebration of the group’s work but also as a reminder of what’s left to be done.
“It’s a chance to look back over a lot of the changes that were made and the people who have been housed because we’re here,” Kirk said.
Bethesda Cares provides counseling, referrals, some clothing and food services to Bethesda’s homeless through its headquarters on the bottom of the county’s Woodmont Avenue parking garage. It is not a housing provider, though, which has Kirk and outreach specialist John Mendez trying to convince local policymakers to make room for chronically homeless in government-sponsored housing programs.
Kirk said that around 2004, Bethesda Cares fully embraced the “Housing First” approach toward decreasing homelessness, a newer concept that advocates placing the homeless in permanent housing right away instead of putting them through counseling, homeless shelters and temporary housing first.
Kirk and Mendez have said that Montgomery County housing providers have been too slow to embrace the Housing First model, and that too many government-sponsored housing spots go to the working poor who might have other resources.
In the future, Kirk hopes Bethesda Cares can add some more medical services for some of the most chronically homeless in the area. A speaker from the 100,000 Homes Campaign that seeks to survey and shelter those most vulnerable to living on the street will take part in the April 13 event.
For more information and for tickets or donations, visit the event website.
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Bethesda Cares To Celebrate 25 Years — The nonprofit, based in the first floor of Parking Garage 11 on Woodmont Avenue, provides clothing, food and tries to place some of the most vulnerable homeless people in Bethesda into housing programs. [Bethesda Cares]
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Farm to Freezer organizer Cheryl Kollin will talk about her group’s goals and how it is “Changing the Way We Eat” starting at 4:40 p.m. on a special webcast that can be viewed here. TED conferences are a set of live talks, described as a “clearinghouse for ideas” that by late 2012 had been viewed one billion times online.
Kollin started Farm to Freezer in 2012 with a network of volunteers who collected 300 to 400 pounds of donated produce from the Bethesda FRESHFARM farmers market each week. They then used various Bethesda church commercial kitchens to either preserve the food or make it into useable products such as tomato sauce.
The food and the products were given to homelessness prevention nonprofit Bethesda Cares, which will have enough food to feed its homeless clients through winter, said Kollin, who hopes to expand the program this year.
Bethesda Green will be hosting a free local viewing party starting at 10 a.m. (registration here) that will include presentations and discussions on local food programs and county zoning revisions might affect the farms that produce local food.
Photo via TEDxManhattan
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Homeless prevention and assistance nonprofit Bethesda Cares will lead a survey and count of the area’s homeless tomorrow, part of Montgomery County’s requirement for homeless program grant funding.
Bethesda Cares director Susan Kirk said about 45 volunteers will help the organization do a joint point-and-time count and medical needs survey starting at 4:45 a.m. tomorrow (Thursday) to help fulfill the requirements of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Groups of volunteers, government employees and nonprofit workers will be going out around Montgomery County tomorrow morning to conduct the count. HUD requires communities receiving Continuum of Care Homeless Assistance Grant funding to complete an annual report on the homeless using sheltered facilities and a biennial report that includes those living in unsheltered facility.
Councilman George Leventhal (D-At large) of Takoma Park, chair of the Council’s Health and Human Services Committee, will volunteer for a homeless count in Gaithersburg. Leventhal has canvassed with Bethesda Cares before, where Kirk and outreach specialist John Mendez are lobbying for a Housing First policy of ending homelessness in the county.
The information collected in tomorrow’s counts will be part of the Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR), which studies the extent and nature of homelessness in the U.S. The report provides nationwide estimates of homelessness, including information about the demographic characteristics of homeless persons, service use patterns and the capacity to house homeless persons.
“Our County is committed to reducing the prevalence of homelessness, with the ultimate goal of placing homeless residents in permanent housing and better lives overall — eventually eradicating homelessness altogether,” Leventhal said in a statement released Tuesday.
In 2011, Bethesda Cares criticized the operations of the county’s Housing Opportunities Commission at one Hampden Lane facility, where Mendez felt not enough of the most vulnerable and chronically homeless were placed.
Last year’s point-and-time count recorded 72 chronically homeless on the streets of downtown Bethesda, Friendship Heights and White Flint.
Farm to Freezer, the Bethesda nonprofit that prepares and donates leftover Farmers Market goods for the homeless, won a national contest to speak at a conference on sustainable food programming.
The TEDxManhattan “Changing the Way We Eat” conference on Feb. 16 in New York will be viewed by like-minded nonprofits across the country and should afford Farm to Freezer some widespread recognition.
The program, organized and created by Cheryl Kollin, started this year with a network of volunteers who collected 300 to 400 pounds of donated produce from the Bethesda FRESHFARM farmers market each week. They would then use various Bethesda church commercial kitchens to either preserve the food or make it into useable products such as tomato sauce.
The food and the products were given to homelessness prevention nonprofit Bethesda Cares, which will have enough food to feed its homeless clients through winter, Kollin said.
Kollin hopes the program expands in 2013. The group received about 600 of the 2,000 votes on a number of programs up to speak at the event.
“I am thrilled announce that Farm to Freezer won the TEDxManhattan speaker challenge! Winning a speaking opportunity at TEDx will provide critical visibility and hopefully, lead to funding that will support this social enterprise,” Kollin wrote in an announcement.
She will present on Feb. 16 and will again organize a local viewing party in Bethesda at the offices of Bethesda Green.
Photo via TEDxManhattan
Farm to Freezer, a nonprofit that prepares and donates frozen food leftovers to homeless people in Bethesda, is up for a chance to speak at the TEDxManhattan event for “changing the way we eat,” in February.
After starting the effort this year, the group is one of five national finalists for the event that will be broadcast to local viewing parties of similar nonprofit groups and could open up some new opportunities.
Cheryl Kollin and Sue Kirk, executive director of the homeless prevention nonprofit Bethesda Cares, got together to create the program with a wide net of partners including area church commercial kitchens, Whole Foods grocery store and farmers who sell at the weekly Bethesda FRESHFARM farmers market.
Kirk told Kollin that Bethesda Cares had more fresh produce donated to them by farmers at the market then they could use without it wasting.
So she built a volunteer network that collected between 300 and 400 pounds of donated food a week and saved a portion of it in freezers either by making it into tomato sauces or by using other preservation methods.
After 20 weeks of the project, Farm to Freezer successfully gleaned 5,100 pounds of food from the market (much of it from Pennsylvania’s Spiral Path Farm) and left Bethesda Cares with 1,500 pounds of food in its freezer that will be used in hot meals served every day this winter to some of Bethesda’s more than 70 homeless people.
“It starts to connect all these various parts of what I call rebuilding our sustainable food systems,” said Kollin, who is a business consultant.
The farmers get tax deductions for donations, the homeless get food and the community gets informed about the homeless problem in Bethesda, Kollin said. The group also partnered with Montgomery County’s pre-release program. County prisoners months away from being released came to the market to help weigh and distribute items for preparation as a way to satisfy their community service requirements.
Kollin and Bethesda Green have hosted a local viewing party for the TEDxManhattan talks the past two years.
Now, Kollin has a chance to give it when it happens in February. She also hopes to bring back and perhaps widen the program next year.
For more information on Farm to Freezer and to vote, visit the website.
Photo via TEDxManhattan
More than 70 homeless people are in Bethesda, according to the organization. Bethesda Cares provides eviction prevention, a meal program, counseling services and help getting into group homes and homeless programs for the chronically homeless and working poor.
The clothing closet allows the homeless to pick out items they need.
Those interested in donating can contact Bethesda Cares. Donations will be accepted at the organization’s offices (7728 Woodmont Ave.) Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Donations can also be dropped off at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center (4805 Edgemoor Lane) but staff there asks that you call 240-777-8210 first to arrange a time.
Flickr photo by OFA-MD
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Clara Barton Community Center Holding Craft Show — The Friends of the Clara Barton Community Center (7425 MacArthur Boulevard, Cabin John) will hold its fifth annual craft show from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 2. Proceeds go to funding a number of Community Center events throughout the year, including family bingo night, paper shredding and the Halloween Haunted House. [Friends of the Clara Barton Community Center]
Flickr photo by IamJomo
The group named Bethesda Cares, which provides meals, social worker support, a clothes closet and eviction prevention services to homeless and working poor out of its Woodmont Avenue office, as its 2012 Outstanding Service Organization.
Outreach worker John Mendez, who spearheads the group’s efforts to interact and provide services to some of the estimated 72 chronically homeless on Bethesda streets, received NAMI’s 2012 Dr. Wayne Fenton Memorial Award.
On an early morning survey of homeless people’s medical needs last month, Mendez spoke about the mental illnesses some face and how those can prevent them from finding ways off the street.
Mendez said he typically goes out once a week to places where homeless people are known to stay in order to maintain contact. Bethesda Cares provides guidance to homeless in entering various housing programs and is a major proponent of the “Housing First” strategy to ending homelessness, as opposed to the more traditional route of putting homeless in transitional shelter or rehab programs first.
The group has actively lobbied county officials, including County Council Health and Human Services Chair George Leventhal (D-At large) of Takoma Park, to adopt a more agressive approach to putting chronically homeless people in their own homes as an incentive to keep them off the streets.
A trio of local organizations got together last weekend to provide medical services to medically vulnerable and homeless without other access to them.
The Sathya Sai Baba Center of South Bethesda, homelessness prevention nonprofit Bethesda Cares and host Bethesda Presbyterian Church joined Saturday to sponsor a medical camp and triage for 33 patients.
Twenty of the 33 were homeless, 13 lived in homes and 20 had no insurance, according to Sathya Sai Center President Siva Sreeni.
Health care professionals included two triage doctors, two internal medicine specialists, an ophthalmologist, dentist, stress reduction expert and doctors to register and check-out patients.
All but five patients received eye exams and all but four got dental exams.
The Sathya Sai Baba Center practices a mix of Hindu and Muslim beliefs from the teachings of Indian guru Sri Sathya Sai Baba. The Bethesda Presbyterian Church, in conjunction with Bethesda Cares, holds a lunch for the homeless every Saturday that feeds an average of 40 people.
By last official count, there were 72 chronically homeless people from Friendship Heights to the White Flint Metro station.
Photos courtesy of Sanjay Mandhan via Bethesda Cares
After 24 years, Fannie Mae last year announced it would no longer hold its popular annual pre-Thanksgiving Help the Homeless Walk on the National Mall, instead opting for a series of “mini-walks” in local communities.
So far, Bethesda homelessness nonprofit Bethesda Cares has been able to manage the loss of the event with its own series of walks. The group has brought in $4,290 to date, according to finance and administrative manager Linda Caplan.
On Sunday, Bethesda Cares received a number of walk-up donations at its Bethesda Homeless Walk at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School.
There are other events scheduled, including an “Exercise for a Cause” program at Rock Creek Sports Club (8325 Grubb Rd., Silver Spring). Participants can make a donation for a free, three-day pass to the club.
There is also a mini-walk scheduled for Oct. 28 at the Bethesda Cares offices (7728 Woodmont Ave.). The Bethesda United Methodist Church is sponsoring the walk.
Caplan said she expects the total amount of donations to increase. The online goal for Sunday’s walk was $500.
Bethesda Cares provides eviction prevention, a meal program, clothing closet and psychological services for the as many as 72 homeless people in Bethesda, and others facing financial difficulty.
For more information, visit the Bethesda Cares website.
Mercedes Aboagyeadjei goes shopping about three days a week at the National Center For Children and Families.
The mother of three, saddled with debt and health problems, came to the organization’s Bethesda family shelter two months ago after losing her home. There, she has a rent-free place to live, a case worker to match her up with doctors and help setting up her finances to pay off bills, little by little.
But for a family with few resources, needs remain.
The cost of clothes, dishes and other everyday household items add up. Meanwhile, people drive to the Greentree Road campus almost every day to drop off lightly used clothing in yellow bins by the front door.
The solution, as imagined by NCCF Executive Director Dr. Sheryl Brissett Chapman and set up by Director of Volunteers Tina Wells, was a place for clients such as Aboagyeadjei to go for a choice of what to wear, hang up in their temporary homes or get for their children.
It’s called Dr. C’s Boutique, a store where those in NCCF’s shelters and transitional housing can shop for free.
“I lost everything that I have,” Aboagyeadjei said. “The little income that I have I’ve been able to save. I’m grateful for them for helping me out.”
Behind a soon-to-be-redeveloped property a few blocks from the boutique shops and upscale eateries of Bethesda Row, John Mendez and his team of volunteers found nine homeless people trying to sleep through the rain early Tuesday morning.
Most were likely chronically homeless. Some — depending on the results of the survey the volunteers performed — might be medically vulnerable, meaning they suffer from diabetes, hepatitis, kidney disease, alcoholism or one of a number of other disabilities common in the homeless population.
The surest way to help them improve is to put a roof over their heads, says Mendez, outreach specialist at the homeless services nonprofit Bethesda Cares.
But according to Mendez and Bethesda Cares Executive Director Susan Kirk, not everyone, including the Montgomery County government, has fully embraced the strategy.
It’s why they’re thankful for the 100,000 Homes campaign, a nationwide initiative to document illnesses of the chronically homeless to help prioritize them for housing assistance.
At 5 a.m., Mendez led four teams of volunteer medical students from the Uniformed Services University at Walter Reed to different spots where the most vulnerable homeless are known to rest for the night. They asked them to answer questions about their medical histories as a way to help make the case that they deserve housing assistance.
This fiscal year, Mendez said the county has provided 25 housing slots for these people.
Still, Kirk said government agencies and housing service providers give preference to families or individuals who have the support network and ability to overcome poverty more easily, who have a place to live other than the streets.
“The way housing is given out now, the whole idea is, ‘Who deserves a house,’” Kirk said. “It’s like, ‘How can I tell this young family with kids that they can’t have housing when we’re going to put someone in off the street.’ There’s this judgement that the person off the street isn’t as deserving as that one.”
Instead, it opted for a series of mini-walks in smaller communities, including in Bethesda, where homeless prevention nonprofit Bethesda Cares will host a Help the Homeless Walk on Oct. 14 at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School outdoor track.
“It’s supposed to put the focus on the local level so more things are being done and more steps are being taken right here in our community,” said Bethesda Cares Executive Director Susan Kirk.
The Help the Homeless program raises money to support organizations like Bethesda Cares, which provides eviction prevention, a meal program, clothing closet, and psychological services to homeless and working poor people in Bethesda and Montgomery County from its facility at 7728 Woodmont Ave.
Bethesda Cares is hoping to raise $500 in donations through registration fees for the event, which begins at 1 p.m. Participants can register up to 12:15 p.m. on the day of the Walk.
Kirk said there were 71 homeless people in the Bethesda area at last count. Bethesda Cares conducts its own outreach surveys a few times throughout the year to determine how many homeless people are in Bethesda and to connect those people, some of whom are medically vulnerable, with services.
They also rely on more than 500 volunteers.
“Our name certainly holds true. We get great support from the Chamber of Commerce, the BUP, the Regional Services Center, the schools,” Kirk said. “So I think people do get it and realize that all of us together are making an impact.”
To register for the event, visit the Bethesda Community Walk website.
Flickr photo by OFA-MD