News Article

Coalition addresses homelessness, affordable housing
February 14, 2024


By: Matt Wynn

Sen. Ben Cardin visited the College of Southern Maryland’s La Plata campus to head a discussion on affordable housing and listen to concerns about homelessness and housing insecurity.

Before opening up the discussion to attendees, the Local Homeless Coalition of Southern Maryland shared key statistics with Cardin (D-Md.) at the event Monday morning.

According to the Jan. 25, 2023, Point in Time Count, a survey that looks into the numbers and demographics of the homeless, there were 322 people unsheltered, in emergency shelters or in transitional housing across Charles, St. Mary’s and Calvert counties. This year’s data is not yet publicly available.

About 17% of Southern Maryland renters receive an eviction filing each year, according to the Out of Reach 2023 Report. That totals to 4,821 households. The same study said that Southern Maryland families must work the equivalent of 2.7 full-time jobs at current minimum wage to afford a two-bedroom unit.

Cardin asked if the 17% eviction filing rate was a steady figure, as it seemed high. He was told by presenters that the rate was steady.

There has been a steady decline in the federal government’s support of affordable housing for the past 40 to 50 years, Cardin explained.

At the time of the study, 20% of Southern Maryland renters were spending more than half of their income on rent — totaling to 6,095 households.

After the presentation, Cardin spoke to those gathered, saying, “We need to do better than that. It’s outrageous that people can’t afford rent in their communities.”

Cardin said that priorities are deeply skewed, citing an example of legislation that he helped introduce that helps migratory birds. The program helps birds like the Baltimore oriole, which comes from as far as South America in the spring, and received $5 million in funding. An effort to save the baseball team by the same name received $1.7 billion.

Likewise, Cardin said that priorities in terms of housing are skewed, mentioning how Maryland is facing a shortage of 96,000 housing units. The statistic comes from a press release that the office of Gov. Wes Moore (D) published on Jan. 22.

The release said that Maryland is underproducing housing, which has added to the shortage at an average rate of 5,600 a year.

“We have students here at CSM who are homeless,” Yolanda Wilson, the president of the College of Southern Maryland, said, emphasizing how close the issue is to them.

Homelessness and poverty are being felt across all ages in Maryland, which is addressed in a state plan.

“Governor Moore is committed to ending childhood poverty,” Cardin said. “It’s an important part of the housing crisis.”

One concerned individual stood up and shared a story of how their child wants to be a teacher when she grows up, but when she explained to her mom her future housing intentions, she could not help but laugh under her breath a bit.

She said she tried to explain under the rising housing costs that her child may never be able to move out. The mother said she was looking to expand her house so that she can ensure enough living room for her family in the future.

Later, Cardin addressed that story to help advocate for affordable housing reform, saying, “You should be able to get a job, afford housing and not have to live with your parents.”

“We have the wealth as a community to do what we need to do,” Cardin said. “There’s a problem reaching people that we need to reach.”

Despite all the statistics and figures mentioned in the presentation, Cardin explained how as a senator he has become almost numb to numbers when routinely hearing about “millions and billions,” though he is reminded of the cost of the crisis when he sees the individuals involved.

“It’s a human being,” Cardin said.