‘Holistic Approach’ To OC Homeless Issue Achieving Results

OCEAN CITY — One of the takeaways from the Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) annual report presentation this week was that strides have been made in addressing the resort’s growing homeless issue.

For years, multiple state and local agencies attempted to assist the growing homeless population in Worcester County and in Ocean City, where the problem had become particularly acute in and around the Boardwalk area, with varying degrees of success. However, the various state and local agencies lacked a certain amount of cohesiveness as they attempted to address the homeless issue in and around the resort.

That changed last year with the creation of the Worcester County Homeless Outreach Team (HOT), a partnership between the Worcester County Health Department, Local Behavioral Health Authority, Department of Social Services, Ocean City Police Department, Diakonia, Ocean City Crisis Coalition, and Atlantic General Hospital. It was created to offer outreach to homeless individuals throughout the county. The effort began, however, in Ocean City, as homelessness in the Boardwalk area has been a cause for concern among residents and visitors. Resort officials have cited complaints from tourists and police reports occasionally include individuals with “no fixed address” who have been charged with crimes like disorderly conduct and burglary.

On Tuesday, OCPD Chief Ross Buzzuro presented the department’s annual report to the Mayor and Council and said the HOT program had been successful in the latter part of 2018 in assisting some of the homeless in Ocean City and addressing some of the issues associated with the proliferation in the downtown area.

“With our homeless outreach team, we’re really starting to see some successes,” he said. “It has been very challenging in dealing with the homeless in our community, but we feel like we’ve really turned a corner.”

Since the HOT program began last fall, the allied agencies including the OCPD have made contact with around 40 homeless individuals and have been able to find permanent or temporary housing for nine. In addition, the HOT program has assisted 14 other homeless individuals with food assistance applications and five more with getting needed medical care.

“We’re starting to really make strides,” he said. “We’re starting to get the homeless in our community the services they need. It’s not only an OCPD issue or response, but with our partnerships it has become a holistic approach and I think that’s really important.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.