La Plata, MD – The man came meandering up to the gas pumps at a popular La Plata business, unannounced and unexpected.
He saw my Redskins jacket and began making conversation about the team’s victory over the Philadelphia Eagles that past Saturday.
“So man, here it is,” he said finally. “I’m temporarily homeless. Two guys jumped me the other night and took all my money. They beat me up pretty bad,” he said.
I asked him if he’d notified the police.
“What was I going to tell them?” he said. “I didn’t see them, I didn’t get a look at ‘em, they just came out of nowhere and took what they could. I found my wallet, but all my money was gone.”
I gave him what I could and he walked off across Route 301 to some camp site in the woods where a segment of Charles County’s homeless population reside.
While many Southern Marylanders basked in the familial glow of the holiday season, instead of being home for the holidays, a growing segment of Charles County’s population found itself homeless for the holidays.
In October, two of the county’s homeless population were found dead at their campsite. Staff at Lifestyles of Maryland Foundation in La Plata are anxious to make sure that doesn’t happen again with the upcoming winter approaching.
Lifestyles Executive Director Sandy Washington said that homelessness is particularly bad during the holiday season.
“It’s bad and it’s also challenging,” she noted. “We want to make sure those asking for the help really need the help as much as possible. What we have found is that in most cases, people who really need it aren’t asking.”
Washington said the organization has been fortunate in that churches which have participated in Safe Nights, a sheltering program for homeless on bitter winter nights, are working through their own challenges to house those in need.
This year’s helping hand has come from the First Baptist Church of Waldorf.
“It’s been wonderful this year,” she explained. “The church had a school bus for all the participants and took them to the movies. They all got to see the new Star Wars movie.”
She added that all the participants got gift cards for clothing during the excursion.
“It’s ironic, because there literally is no room at the inn for many of these churches because of the holiday season,” she said. “They have so much going on.”
She said that the Charles County Sheriff’s Office provided prepared meals for people in the encampments.
“They are also willing to go out and distribute the meals,” she added.
“The churches and different groups all band together to do unbelievable things for these families,” Washington stated. “What bothers us the most are the ones we aren’t reaching.”
Lifestyles will be conducting its Point in Time survey of the homeless Jan. 27. Training for the annual survey will take place Jan. 6 at Lexington Park United Methodist Church and Jan. 20 in Charles County at Lifestyles office in La Plata.
For more information, people willing to volunteer may call 301-609-9900.
Contact Joseph Norris at email@example.com