Safety Under Roof for Everyone:
Breaking a Hopeless Cycle 

Frederick has a number of excellent programs in place to serve those who are housing-insecure. However, recent years have seen an increase in demand for these services, and there are always some individuals who fall through the cracks. These people may become trapped in a cycle of arrests and incarceration, resulting in a disproportionate drain on city resources.

We propose the creation of Safety Under Roof for Everyone (SURE) to augment existing services and provide a way of breaking the cycle of homelessness. Ideally, this initiative would be carried out in cooperation with one or more of the existing non-profit organizations currently serving Frederick.

It would involve a two-pronged approach:

  • SURE Shelter: open to all comers without restriction or requirement
  • SURE Village: a transitional housing community

Setting up such a program in Frederick would benefit the city itself, as well as its unhoused population. 

More Details

Some people need a place to park. They may have their own vehicle—licensed or unlicensed.

Some people need a place to camp.* At present, there are a number of unofficial encampments in Frederick, but they have no legal standing and are subject to displacement (or harassment) at any time.

Some people need shelter. They may not have camping equipment, or the weather may be extreme.

Everyone needs access to bathroom facilities and water. Everyone needs a way to receive mail or messages. Everyone needs food, or a way to cook.

* This proposal focuses on the shelter option. Addressing camping space/facilities may require a separate initiative.

  • One or more facilities with convenient access to public transportation
  • Space for parking and bike racks
  • Under a single roof (i.e. large warehouse or retail-type space), provide
    • Individual lockable rooms each with built-in cot, table, and locker
    • Non-gendered bathroom units (ADA compliant)
    • Two meals served on site daily
    • Coordination of social and other services
  • Absolutely no requirements or charges for services
  • Open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year
  • No time limits or deadlines—assistance available for other forms of transitional housing

This sounds like “housing first.” Is it? Read more here.

At present, the City of Frederick bears the cost for. . .

  • Police response for trespassing or disturbance claims against unhoused individuals
  • Court hearings, public defense, and jail time associated with resulting arrests
  • Emergency response to incidents involving unhoused individuals
  • Design/modification of public spaces and park furniture to discourage loitering

Shelter Under Roof for Everyone (SURE) could significantly decrease all of those costs to the City of Frederick by providing a place for people to be, rather than simply on the street.

As hospital emergency room personnel can attest, unhoused individuals are often “frequent fliers” who show up with a variety of ailments—especially in bad weather.

Providing people with an option for sheltering indoors can help them stay well, and decrease frivolous emergency room or urgent care visits.

Frederick has a handful of habitual panhandlers—some have been working the same intersections for five years or more. If citizens can be assured that shelter is available to everyone in Frederick, they may be willing to

Imagine being an officer tasked with telling someone to “move on” from a stairwell or other sheltered space during a heavy rainstorm. If that person had any other options at all, it’s likely they wouldn’t be there in the first place. What would you do? What would you do if the conditions outside were life-threatening? What would you do the tenth—or the fiftieth—time it happened?

Police officers are expected to behave with authority. How does that work when the only possible response to “What am I supposed to do, if I can’t stay here?” . . . is a shrug?

Police officers are supposed to behave with compassion. How long could you sustain compassion when routinely required to displace vulnerable people from whatever measure of comfort they can find? When mental illness or poverty are—for most practical purposes—equated with crime?

Safety Under Roof for Everyone (SURE) would provide our police department with an option to offer hope. It would place officers in a position to exercise compassionate authority, rather than promoting callousness.

Providing people with an option for shelter, with no questions asked, should reduce the number of police responses to trespassing, shoplifting, and loitering complaints.

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