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Singer leaving Health Care for the Homeless

Health Care for the Homeless President and CEO Jeff Singer will retire this fall after 40 years of working with the city’s homeless.

Singer has been with the nonprofit for nearly 25 years, and spent the last 13 as its CEO. The agency’s board of directors has established a search committee to ensure a smooth transition and to identify Singer’s replacement.

“Forty years of doing this has left me with a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction,” Singer said. “Perhaps it’s time to write poetry instead.”

Singer, 58, said he’ll start teaching social work classes at University of Maryland this fall and will brush up on his poetry-writing skills.

Singer worked for the Baltimore City Department of Social Services before joining Health Care for the Homeless in 1987 as a social worker. He became director of community relations two years later and was named CEO in 1998.

During Singer’s tenure, the agency opened a new health care facility at 421 Fallsway that was three times as big as its old headquarters, launched new dental and pediatric programs and more than quadrupled its annual operating budget, from $3.2 million in 1998 to $13.5 million this year.

HCH is expected to serve its 100,000th client this year, Singer said. The agency offers pediatric, adult and geriatric medical care, mental health services, social work and case management, addiction treatment, dental care, HIV services, prison re-entry services, supportive housing and access to education and employment.

Once arrested at Baltimore City Hall for protesting over the lack of emergency shelter, Singer became a leading advocate for the poor and homeless. He started his career as a clinical social worker in 1969, and had expanded his role to community organizer and policy advocate. In 1988, he served on the governor’s advisory board on homelessness. Singer most recently served on the leadership advisory group of the mayor’s 10-year plan to end homelessness.

“He’s one of a kind,” said Dr. Peter L. Beilenson, health officer for Howard County, who was the Baltimore City health commissioner at the time he met Singer. “He will be greatly missed, not just as part of Health Care for the Homeless, but in the whole health policy world.”

Beilenson said that Singer always made a striking first impression, and was known for his passion for the people he served. He said Singer would often drive clients to where they needed to go, and would help in any capacity possible.

Looking forward, Beilenson said the agency will need its new leadership to help maintain its funding, especially after coming into a new building, and advocating for a “housing first” policy, which argues that the homeless should be given apartments, rather than shuffled through different levels of housing. The third issue HCH will face is health care reform and how many of its clients will now be covered by health insurance.

Singer also served as a staffer for the National Health Care for the Homeless Council and served two terms as president of the national council. In 2010, he received a Health Care Heroes award for community outreach from The Daily Record and was named Social Worker of the Year by the Maryland chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.

2 comments

  1. Jeff is a friend and partner in the fight against homelessness in Baltimore and America. I know he is just beginning his work but on a much bigger scale. You do not wall alone Jeff and I will be here when ever and as often as you need me.

  2. Without Jeff as a partner in the struggle, I can hardly imagine people who are homeless in this city having achieved so much in terms of available housing and health care services. He will be missed at the helm, but I deeply believe that he will continue to be involved on many levels. (Keep training those enthusiastic social work students to change the world!)

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