Successes, and more work to be done 

Tracy Vandenbroek, ESSCA Corresponding Secretary

May 12, 2019

As mentioned in previous updates, a coalition has been meeting monthly since Spring 2018 to discuss security issues in and around Progress Place. We are leaders throughout the Downtown Silver Spring community, including Shepard’s Table, Interfaith Works, ESSCA, Montgomery Preservation (B&O), South Silver Spring Neighborhood Association, Silver Spring Urban District (Red Shirts) and Greater Silver Spring Chamber of Congress with advice from Montgomery County Police, Liquor Commission and Civil Servants.

After a couple letters to MoCo elected officials, a year of regular meetings, numerous appearances at MoCo listening/ budget meetings and countless tours of Progress Place (I’ve now been on three—highly recommended!)---we made some progress.

On April 24, 2019 it was officially recommended by County Executive Marc Elrich to provide funding for enhanced security at Progress Place $83,000! This is a great first step. Read the full recommendation here: FY20 MoCo HHS Recommendations

Our October 2018 letter to MoCo elected officials, we requested $180K for 24/7 crisis intervention trained security and $43K for security cameras that provide site to current blind-spots, including behind the building, which if in place can be turned into a smoking area.  Currently these measures are not in place and those that serve the homeless and the homeless have been put in harm’s way.  Staff and patrons have been assaulted and there is a public drug market in the parking lot—a lot of the danger comes from those who are not patrons of Progress Place.

Councilmember Tom Hucker has proposed additional budget to fulfill our original request in his April 25th facebook post

  1. A “placeholder” $100,000 to fund one crisis intervention-trained security officer, providing staffing 24/7, to patrol both inside and outside Progress Place.

  2. A “placeholder” $43,000 to buy and install new security cameras inside and outside Progress Place.

Separately, I plan to propose that the Public Safety Committee, on which I serve, support more funding to provide more Montgomery County Police Department officers on the streets of the 3rd Police District, which covers downtown Silver Spring.

I support humane and sensitive solutions to these problems, not draconian measures, as some have suggested. Homelessness is not a crime and I won't support efforts to criminalize it.

MoCO 2020 Budget

Other items our group is tackling or have accomplished thus far:

  • Accomplished

    • CSX have installed brighter lights in the adjacent Georgia Ave underpass

    • The Red Shirts are cleaning the underpass 6 times a day

    • Public bathroom enhancements and maps are being distributed

    • The wine & beer store next to Progress Place has stopped paying patrons to do odd jobs with alcohol per our request

  • Working on​

    • Mental health/addiction services – needs, effectiveness, office space 

    • Safe environments/activities - enhanced programming/resources, partners

    • Housing needs (very low/no income) – scoping

All the Love & Peace, Tracy