ACLU, Advocates for the Homeless Testify to Baltimore City Council
About Lack of Beds for Women
November 29, 2011
BALTIMORE – The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland (ACLU) and the Homeless Persons Representation Project (HPRP) will testify on November 29, 2011 regarding a Baltimore City Council resolution calling for an investigation into gender discrimination in the provision of emergency shelter for homeless persons. The ACLU and HPRP were asked to testify at the hearing because of the concerns raised in an October 24 letter to Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake relating to City’s discriminatory policy of providing overflow shelter beds only to men. Since then, the City has added 20 overflow beds for women, but has not laid out any long-term solution that ensures that emergency shelter beds are allocated in a non-discriminatory way.
WHAT: Hearing on resolution calling for an investigation of gender discrimination at the Baltimore City homeless shelter.
WHO: Sonia Kumar, Attorney, ACLU of Maryland; and Carolyn Johnson, Managing Attorney for the Homeless Persons Representation Project.
WHEN: Public hearing begins at 1 PM.
WHERE: Baltimore City Council, Du Burns Council Chamber, 4th floor, City Hall, 100 Holliday Street, Baltimore MD.
BACKGROUND: On October 24, 2011, the ACLU and HPRP wrote to Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake asking for immediate intervention to remedy the City’s policy of providing overflow shelter beds only to men. The letter argued that the City’s policy unlawfully discriminates against women in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Equal Rights Amendment to the Maryland Constitution.
In July 2011, the City significantly reduced the number of shelter beds, from 350 to 250, when the 24-hour emergency shelter for single adults was relocated from 210 Guilford Avenue to the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Housing Resource Center on Fallsway (the Center). In response to concerns about this reduction in beds and the hardships it would create, City officials repeatedly stated that the transition from the old shelter to the new shelter would not take place until a plan for additional overflow beds was in place. But the City set up a plan for overflow beds for men only. When the 175 beds for men at the Center are full, any additional men seeking shelter are transported by bus to the 100-bed overflow shelter. When the 75 beds for women at the Center are full, additional women seeking shelter are simply turned away to sleep in the streets.
The City added 20 overflow beds for women on November 1.