Wandering Eye: HUD's bogus numbers on the homeless, Baltimore's embattled hip-hop scene, and more

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) mass-emailed some really great news yesterday: "HOMELESSNESS IN U.S. CONTINUES TO DECLINE, DOWN 27.6 PERCENT IN MARYLAND SINCE 2010" was the headline. HUD's Mid-Atlantic administrator, Jane C.W. Vincent, claimed that "communities are targeting their resources strategically to give persons experiencing homelessness the support they need," and "as a result, the numbers have declined steadily since 2010, ranging from a 27.6 percent decrease in Maryland to an 8.2 percent drop in Delaware." Baltimore residents might find this a dubious assessment, though, given the visible prevalence of homeless people here—and, as City Paper reported last year, the fact that the official numbers on the size of Mobtown's homeless population are an acknowledged farce. The Detroit News yesterday highlighted how squishy such numbers can be, reporting how the state of Michigan counts 92,341 homeless residents there, while HUD believes there are 12,227. Homeless advocates, meanwhile, are attacking HUD's numbers. It seems the only thing HUD is accomplishing by pushing such data-driven headlines is the widespread dissemination of patently false confidence that society's solving a problem that obviously isn't budging. (Van Smith)


Over at the website True Laurels, the online version of City Paper contributor Lawrence Burney's excellent zine of the same name (full disclosure, I have contributed to a few issues of "True Laurels"), there is an important piece from writer Janae Griffin, aimed at Baltimore's often-embattled hip-hop scene. "Baltimore Rap's Ageism: Why Old & New Artists Don't Understand Each Other" constructively takes everybody to task—the young for picking up on mainstream rap's moronic "the world owes me something" swagger and the old for grousing about young kids' cluelessness and petulance while neither taking the time to educate the next generation nor being aware of their goals. In part, it is a conversation about "tactics." In particular, harsh words are sent to "New Baltimore," a heartening DIY hip-hop movement here with an alienating chip on its shoulder and a severe lack of organization, though the old get it too for, well, acting like close-minded, out-of-touch old people: "Older artists in [a] Facebook conversation claimed that there wasn't a need for a 'New Baltimore' and discredited the newer artists' movement, while the younger ones criticized the old heads for not being supportive enough of their hard work." There's not enough locals telling it like it is, especially in the realm of local rap where anything even resembling criticism makes you a "hater," so Griffin's real talk is much appreciated. Hopefully it encourages more conversation and less grousing. (Brandon Soderberg)


Delmarva Now (re)tells the story of George Avery Melvin, a Hog Island citizen who lived for 82 years but was immortalized in death by—it is said—an unusual chemical reaction that seemed to turn his corpse to stone. "I remember that day in October 1956 when Bob was at the Coast Guard's Little Machipongo Station and cook Lonnie Brown went on beach patrol. They found this body they thought had washed out of the grave," Coast Guard Seaman Bob Smith tells the paper. In the '50s lots of Hog Island graves were getting torn up by the Atlantic Ocean, and people were moving the bodies. But none of the others was like Melvin's, which had been buried 22 years before, was coal-black and brick-hard and still wore a new-looking suit. The Smithsonian wanted it for study, according to the story. The family refused, reburying it in an unmarked grave to thwart grave-robbers. So how did Melvin’s body turn into stone in just 22 years? The Delmarva Now story suggests an answer. (Edward Ericson Jr.)

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