Human Services Programs Inc., the private agency that runs most of Carroll's shelters and emergency assistance, won approval from the County Commissioners yesterday to become a "community action agency."
That designation was started by former President Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1960s during his "War on Poverty."
Community action agencies formed in other parts of the state and country in the 1960s, but never in Carroll. Human Services needed the commissioners' OK and now awaits state approval.
Human Services already provides or links low-income people throughout Carroll with a range of services. The new status would give the agency a government mandate to continue and state and federal grants it otherwise wouldn't get, said Karen Blandford, HSP's secretary of the board.
Blandford said the amount the agency could get through the new designation will vary each year depending on what government grants are available.
"We are keeping our fingers crossed for $15,000 this year" through a state grant to help pay rent and utilities for its office at 10 Distillery Drive, Blandford said.
Human Services, with an annual budget of just over $1 million, contracts with the state and county to administer programs including fuel and emergency assistance, four shelters and teen-pregnancy prevention.
The agency also coordinates grass-roots efforts such as the Neighbors in Need program to provide food baskets and gifts for needy families between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Becoming a community action agency was the only way to provide stable administrative money for the agency, she said. She said the contracts and donations don't cover costs such as rent, because donors want their gifts to go directly to services for people.
To qualify as a community action agency, HSP must add to its board, which oversees direction of the organization and raises money. The board must be made up of one-third representatives of the poor (either low-income people or those who work with them); one-third from the community at large; and one-third elected officials or their appointed representatives.
The board must add six members, Blandford said. Anyone willing to act as a board member or a volunteer should contact the agency at 857-6240.
HSP started three years ago as a private, non-profit outgrowth of the Emergency Assistance Program of the Department of Social Services. Sylvia Canon, executive director of the agency, also was director of the DSS emergency program until last summer.
Canon said she and others in the county started planning the formation of HSP eight years ago because, unlike government agencies, a private, non-profit corporation would be able to solicit donations.