By Joi Thomas, Special to the AFRO

Homelessness is a pervasive problem across our nation.  In cities and suburbs across the country, people are living without permanent housing and this epidemic has not spared Baltimore County.

According to the annual 2017 Point-in-Time homeless census, approximately 800 people are homeless in Baltimore County on any given night; of these individuals, 36 percent are living unsheltered on the street, in cars, or other places not meant for human habitation and 64 percent live in emergency shelters or transitional housing. Many of those affected are children.

Salem United Methodist Church in Baltimore County decided to help combat the issue of homelessness. In 2005, Rev. Dr. Colin Phillips, founded the Night of Peace Family Shelter. Night of Peace is located in the lower level of Salem United Methodist Church in Windsor Mill, Maryland.

“The doors of Night of Peace have been open for 12 years, offering nighttime shelter to homeless families. These families are referred by the Baltimore County Department of Social Services,” Muriel Gates, executive director of Night of Peace, said, “Night of Peace is one of a few family shelters that serves homeless families with children. We provide intensive case management services that focus on housing counseling and placement, other services include assessment and linkage and referrals that are provided by agencies and professionals.”

Night of Peace is preparing for its fifth annual Joyful Noise concert on September 16, 3 p.m. – 7 p.m., at Salem United Methodist Church, 7509 Windsor Mill Rd. Local churches and individuals will perform at an outdoor benefit concert to support the family shelter.  The event is family friendly and free of charge, however, donations are welcome. Guest performers include: Dr. Anthony Brown, Anissa Stewart, Victorious Voices of Set the Captives Free Outreach Center, and many more. The concert will be hosted by Yolanda Vazquez of Maryland Public Television.

The Joyful Noise Concert helps the shelter fulfill its mission. Executive Director Muriel Gates said that the mission of the organization is multifaceted “Our primary mission is to help homeless families move towards independence and permanent housing. Our initial goal is to provide shelter first and create a road map to permanent housing. We are a sanctuary for displaced families, an emergency overnight shelter open from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. daily; we provide breakfast, dinner, daytime snack, laundry and shower facilities and a cubicle with closet space; and case management services to assist with transitioning to permanent housing, employment and life skills with the end goal of living independently.”

Gates made it clear that there are various reasons why persons can become homeless “Homelessness does not discriminate. Homelessness is the result of mental and substance abuse disorders, unemployment, divorce and separation, financial instability, military trauma, emotional abuse and neglect, domestic violence, school violence, bullying, sexual abuse and physical abuse,” she said.

For more information about the concert go to nightofpeace.org.