GAITHERSBURG – Hundreds of homeless people in Montgomery County got free massages, haircuts and medical care on Wednesday, part of an effort by the county to help out to its poorest residents.
Homeless Resource Day, which was held at the Bohrer Park Activity Center in Gaithersburg, also provided an opportunity for homeless in the county to learn about housing assistance programs and receive free dental care.
Homelessness is on the rise in Montgomery County; the county wants to serve its homeless residents even while facing budget cuts, said Nadim Khan, Chief of Special Needs Housing for the county Dept. of Health and Human Services, who helped organize the event.
A third of Montgomery County’s homeless adults are employed but cannot afford housing due to the high cost of living in the area, according to the Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless, a non-profit group.
To be able to afford a two-bedroom rental unit, which averages $1,461 per month in Montgomery County, a person needs to earn a minimum of $28.10 per hour, according to a June study by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, well above the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
Amber Bright, a mother of three, said she lost her job as a preschool teacher in 2009. She was living with friends and family until they asked her to move out in July.
“I just didn’t have a job, so they didn’t want me to live with them anymore,” said Bright, who received a free massage and a bagged lunch at Homeless Resource Day.
Bright and her children now live at Helping Hands Shelter in Rockville, though she is optimistic about finding a job and getting a home of her own.
Part of the mission of Homeless Resource Day was to show homeless where they can get primary care like blood tests, said Ellen Brown, Montgomery County’s program manager for the Dept. of Health and Human Services.
The idea for the event was inspired by Anne Arundel County, which sponsors a homeless resource day for its homeless residents.