Outreach workers find people without homes for 'point-in-time' survey

Jan. 25—Aaron Londyn doesn't consider herself homeless.

"In my perception, just because you're not a part of a concrete jungle does not mean that you don't have nowhere to live," she said. "The earth is our home."

She's made a cozy space for herself in a green tent in a wooded area in Frederick, which she's been living in since August 2022. Several pairs of boots and shoes lined the entrance on Wednesday, and a loofah hung from the ceiling. And most importantly, the tent was keeping her dry from the rain falling Wednesday afternoon.

Londyn was one of the many people outreach workers from Frederick's Department of Housing and Human Services spoke with for their annual "point-in-time" survey, in which the city gets an official count of people without home in the area, both sheltered and unsheltered.

Jason Decker, the department's supervisor for case management services, said the survey is done nationally. For one day, the fourth Wednesday of January, outreach workers fan out and do a survey, he said.

"[The survey] is used to help, you know, figure out what programs are needed, what programs are working, if more funding is needed for a specific subgroup of people, like, for instance, veterans," Decker said.

Last year's survey counted 235 people without homes in Frederick County, and Decker said he was expecting this year's numbers wouldn't be much different.

Five groups of two to four people headed out, starting at noon, and surveyed well into the evening.

The outreach workers stay concentrated in the city, Decker said, and the department relies on other nonprofits and agencies around the county to report the number of people experiencing homelessness in their areas.

Annette Hubbard, a case manager, and Dajah Gee, a business and marketing developer with the department, were paired up for the day.

This was Hubbard's second time doing the survey, and Gee's first. They were armed with clipboards and $10 McDonald's gift cards to hand out to people who did the survey.

Their first stop was the Frederick Rescue Mission. Before they walked into the building, Jocelyn Johnson bounded out in a bright yellow rain jacket.

Johnson laughed and cracked jokes with Gee as Gee asked her questions: What's your race? Is this your first time being homeless? Where are you sleeping tonight? Are you a veteran?

Johnson said she's been homeless on and off for about three months. Most nights, she sleeps in an abandoned building in Frederick, she said.

And she had a lot of concerns for women experiencing homelessness, she said.

In shelters, she said, there aren't many beds for women. There are other resources, like Heartly House, but sometimes that doesn't always work out, she said.

As a survivor of domestic violence, she said, it can be hard to adjust immediately and not fall back to the familiar routine of being with the abuser.

Johnson would love to run her own building that could be a shelter for women, she said.

"This is what I'm gonna advocate for. It's not fair," she said. "There's not a lot of facilities that are housing women."

But not all people who the outreach workers survey were experiencing homelessness. Hubbard surveyed Luis Garcia, who said that he wasn't homeless, but was falling onto hard times. He was eating lunch at the Rescue Mission on Wednesday.

Garcia said he lives in Thurmont, and all of his savings have been put into fixing up his house. But now, he's falling behind on his mortgage.

He lost his previous job because he was in the hospital, but recently got another job with Ruppert Landscape.

However, work is slow because of the rainy weather and housing market, he said. It would also be less stressful if he didn't have to also worry about his family, including a baby girl due in a month.

Garcia said while it's hard now, he's remaining positive.

"I know it's going to get better," he said.

Hubbard handed him a scrap of paper with the number of a housing counselor, who could hopefully help him with his mortgage.

At another location, Hubbard and Gee found Jay Daugharthy, who Hubbard surveyed last year. Hubbard and Daugharthy went through the familiar survey questions, and parted with a hug.

When Daugharthy and his wife, Jodie, first experienced homelessness, Hubbard helped them out, he said. The Daugharthys became stranded in Myersville, he said, and Jay walked to the nearest fire station to ask for help. Hubbard picked them up.

The modest shelter the Daugharthys had a little over a year ago has now grown into several outdoor shelters. A generator was running in the background on Wednesday, near an RV camper that Jay said he's working on fixing up so he and Jodie could leave. A motorcycle was propped up near a second tent.

The couple also still had their pup, Thor, who was yipping in his tent. They are making do, he said, and using programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. But there's one resource that Jay said has helped him get through everything.

"My family," he said, eyes a little watery. "It's not a materialistic thing, but my family."

Follow Clara Niel on Twitter: @clarasniel