Center will house agencies that serve city's homeless Health care, job search, legal aid all under one roof on Park Avenue.

August 14, 1991|By Laura Lippman | Laura Lippman,Evening Sun Staff

When Del. Howard "Pete" Rawlings first heard about the Homeless Services Center, he thought it must already exist.

"Right away, the concept was so ingenious and simple, you wonder why it had never been done before," said Rawlings, who spoke yesterday at a symbolic "wall-breaking" for the center, which will house three agencies serving the homeless when it opens in January 1992.

Yesterday, the old Equitable Trust building at 111 Park Ave. still looked like a recently vacated bank, but architectural plans for the new facility showed how the four floors would be used to serve the clients of Health Care for the Homeless, People Aiding Travelers and the Homeless, and the Homeless Persons Representation Project.

"People often have a series of problems instead of just one," said F. Dudley Staples Jr., president of Health Care for the Homeless. Theoretically, a client who comes to the new facility could visit a doctor, secure help in getting a job and receive free legal services.

But the center will not attempt to meet all the needs of the homeless, Staples added. There are no plans to include a shelter or soup kitchen at the site. "We've decided to concentrate on what we do best," he said.

The Homeless Services Center came about because Health Care for the Homeless was growing out of its clinic on Liberty Street. While searching for a new location, Health Care's staff and board found out that People Aiding Travelers and the Homeless also had a space problem.

The two agencies decided to join forces, raising private funds and going to the General Assembly for money. They will own the building on Park Avenue, providing space to the Homeless Persons Representation Project.

The project will cost $1.6 million, including $420,000 still to be raised. The General Assembly approved a $600,000 construction bond for the center during its last session -- a time when it was "very, very difficult to get money," as Gov. William Donald Schaefer reminded those at yesterday's ceremony.

However, Schaefer said the legislature would be willing to raise half of however much money is still needed in January, challenging Rawlings to introduce the legislation. Rawlings accepted the challenge.

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