ANNAPOLIS – Before he even opened the letter with “Baltimore City Court Document” stamped across it, Robert Barzyk knew what it meant: eviction.
His landlord had not yet received the $125 rent voucher from the state’s scaled down assistance program for the disabled poor.
Barzyk, 53, was just able to scrape by under Maryland’s Disability Assistance and Loan Program, abolished this year in Gov. Parris N. Glendening’s first budget. Now, he echoes the frustration of many former DALP recipients who were left to seek assistance under the new Transitional Emergency Medical and Housing Assistance program.
“My landlord has too many other problems running our building than to listen to my sob story and wait for the TEMHA money to get here,” Barzyk said. “Besides, it’s not even enough money to pay for rent. My rent stayed the same, but I am getting less money from TEMHA than I got from DALP.”
Barzyk used to pay the $160 rent for his single room in a dilapidated downtown Baltimore building with the $157 a month in cash he received from DALP. He made up the last $3 with church donations.
Under TEMHA, there is no cash assistance, only the housing vouchers that get sent directly from local social service offices to landlords.
Many landlords are not accepting TEMHA’s $50 and $125 housing vouchers. And others aren’t receiving the payments on time, according to a new report by the state’s fiscal services department. The report was drawn from a survey of 20 local social services departments.
Moreover, thousands of people, who once relied on DALP are not applying to TEMHA, the report said. Only 8,800 of the 20,504 Marylanders eligible for the two-month-old program have sought help. Rental assistance was recommended for 4,936 of those who applied.
“People feel that TEMHA supplies such a feeble and insignificant amount of help that they don’t bother applying,” said Grace Webb, legislative specialist at the Legal Aid Bureau, in Baltimore, which represents many former DALP recipients.
But proponents of TEMHA say they view the lack of applicants as proof that the disabled poor can obtain housing and other needs through friends, family and charities.
“We are anticipating that a lot of people are staying with friends and relatives at no cost,” said J.C. Shay, spokesman for the Department of Human Resources. “Also, with any new program it takes a while for people to get used to how it works and how they can apply for help.”
“Many of the people who were on DALP have no income at all, so where did they all go?” asked David Romans, the fiscal services analyst who presented the department’s report to lawmakers last week. “We need to find out why they are not applying and how better to structure the program to help them.”
Some advocates for the poor fear the loss of DALP and the problems with TEMHA are leading to an increase in homelessness.
In Baltimore City, there were 1,168 evictions in the last month, according to statistics compiled by the Legal Aid Bureau there.
“The abolishment of DALP has certainly contributed to the number of people being thrown out,” Webb said.
Barzyk, the former DALP recipient, said he can’t work because of a back injury, diabetes, blood pressure and clinical depression.
As he walks through his building each day, he said he sees the bright yellow eviction notices on his neighbors’ doors. Many fellow residents were DALP recipients.
“I just can’t go out on the street again,” Barzyk said. “I just can’t.” -30-