Anne Arundel Homeless Resource Day to Receive Award

The Anne Arundel County’s Homeless Resource Day will receive the Pro Bono Resource Center Herbert S. Garten Special Project Pro Bono Service Award this year.  The award will be presented to Christine Poulsen, Anne Arundel County Department of Social Services Program Manager Community Initiatives Unit, Coordinator Homeless Resource Day at the Annual Meeting of the Maryland State Bar Association on June 16, 2012.

The Anne Arundel County Homeless Resource Day was initiated in 2008 at the request of County Executive John Leopold.  Christine Poulsen of DSS is responsible for the creation and ongoing development of the program.

Homeless Resource Day provides one location where those who are homeless or those who are in danger of becoming homeless can take advantage of a wide array of services.  The issues that affect homelessness are many and the agencies that can help are varied.  Having many of these service providers in one place makes it easier for the homeless to address those issues. Examples of the services include medical care, mental health counseling, social security benefits, birth certificates, and even hair cuts.  Food and clothing are available for distribution and lunch is provided each year. Volunteers act as guides for the clients and assist the participants in finding the service providers needed.  Over the last 5 years the event has grown to provide service to more and more individuals.  The first year there were 411 homeless served, 300 volunteers and 56 service providers.  In 2012, there were 654 individuals served, 474 volunteers and 83 providers.

After the first year, the Anne Arundel County volunteer coordinator reached out to the Anne Arundel Bar Association to see if legal services could be added.  The Anne Arundel Bar Association Pro Bono Committee was able to recruit four volunteer attorneys to provide legal services.  Legal services in the form of brief legal advice and referrals have been provided by Anne Arundel County volunteer attorneys since that second Homeless Day in 2009. The number of participants seeking legal assistance has increased each year.  In 2009 the four volunteers provided services to 50 and in 2012 there were 13 volunteer attorneys who saw 80 clients.  Those seeking legal assistance were referred to appropriate legal service providers or given advice on how to deal with their legal issue.

The Anne Arundel County Homeless Resource Day Planning Team  lead by Chris Poulsen has made it easy for the attorneys and the other providers to participate in the Homeless Resource Day.  Each year the services provided have been reviewed and needs assessed.  There were 56 service providers on the first Homeless Resource Day.  This year there were 83 as the gaps in services needed have been identified.  It is through this process that the legal services became a part of the Anne Arundel County Homeless Resource Day.

In 2011, Governor Martin O’Malley asked that all Departments of Social Services replicate the event so the Homeless Resource Days be held throughout the state.  Organizers of those events have sought to follow the model of Anne Arundel County by working with their local bars to provide legal services.

By Joan Bellistri

Law Library Director for the Anne Arundel County Public Law Library

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