Shelter Getting A Place For Play

Sarah's House Builds Playground, Bike Path

August 21, 1991|By Deidre Nerreau McCabe | Deidre Nerreau McCabe,Staff writer

Besides playing video games and hanging out with their friends afterschool, what Larry, 9, and William, 7, miss the most is riding bikes.

The brothers, now living at Sarah's House, a county homeless shelter, with their mother and younger sister, said there's only one bike to ride, and it has a flat tire. Besides, there's really nowhere toride bikes around the Fort Meade shelter.

But a community-based effort to build a playground and bike path at Sarah's House will resolve the problem when they are completed andbicycles are donated.

Using donated money and volunteer time, Sarah's House broke ground Monday on a playground for older children staying at the 64-bed shelter.

"There are a lot of older children here, over the age of 4, and it's hard for them to play. They can't playon the (tot lot) 'cause they're afraid of kicking balls into the little kids," said Rose, who moved into Sarah's House with her three children after the family was evicted from its town house last spring.

Rose said she couldn't make the rent because she hasn't received child support since separating from her husband 18 months ago.

Rightnow, the only outdoor play area at Sarah's House is a small playground for children under the age of 5.

Susan Thompson, assistant director of Sarah's House, said a half-dozen or more older children may be living at Sarah's House at any given time. After school or during the summer, they generally stay indoors working on their homework or watching television. The playground is needed to create an atmosphere that's as close to home as possible, she said.

"We run a creative program -- this is like a home here," she said, adding that in addition to a hot meal and a roof overhead, Sarah's House offers many otherservices to help "break the cycle of homelessness."

Larry said heis looking forward to playing some basketball, as well as riding bikes, when the playground is completed in a couple of weeks. "It might be much better here with a bigger playground," he said.

The playground is a cooperative venture -- as are many of the projects undertaken by Sarah's House -- among the Auxiliary to the Anne Arundel CountyMedical Society, the county departments of Social Services and Recreation and Parks and Associated CatholicCharities, the organization that runs the shelter under a contract with the county.

Imelda Herzinger, a volunteer with the Medical Auxiliary, said about $5,000 was raised by the county's Professional Courtesy Fund, a program started by the Medical Auxiliary and Social Services. Another $3,000 was raised from donations by individuals throughout the county.

The $8,000 is being used to put asphalt on the play area and basketball court and to build a bike and stroller pathway around the half-acre site.

Recreation and Parks designed the playground and will donate the basketball pole, backboard and color coating, the surface laid over the asphalt for games. These contributions would have cost about $3,600, said Christine Poulsen, director of volunteer services for the Department of Social Services

She expects Sarah's House to get 14 used bicycles as a donation.

Located in renovated World War II barracks off Route 175, Sarah's House is a compound of several buildings serving as both emergency shelter and transitional housing for the homeless.

The program has 64 beds for emergency shelter -- 30 for men and 34 for women and children -- for stays of up to 45 days. The transitional housing consists of seven small apartments for families to use for up to 24 months.

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