A high demand for beds has drained the budget of the county agency that operates four homeless shelters, forcing the organization to seekcommunity donations to keep the facilities open for the next month.
Human Services Programs of Carroll County Inc. spent the entire $198,727 in its budget for the shelters by mid-September and is not scheduled to receive new allocations until its next fiscal year begins Nov. 1, said Lynda Gainor, HSP deputy director.
"We've been at full capacity since November," said Gainor. "Our budget is not planned for full capacity. We used up money faster than we anticipated. We've been strained for several months. Time has run out. If we close our doors, 24 people will be on the street."
HSP is spending money as donations are received to keep shelter operations afloat. As of early last week, HSP had received $1,200 from 30 contributors, said Gainor. HSP needs at least $12,342 to keep the shelters open through Nov. 1, based on the average cost of $23 per night perclient, she said.
This is the first time HSP, which has operated shelters since 1985, has solicited contributions from the community, Gainor said.
The agency's budget for shelters has not increased inthe last three years, said Gainor. HSP provides support for 36 clients in its four shelters -- two for families, one for women and children and one for men. The county contributed $10,000 toward shelter programs, with the $188,727 balance coming from the state, including some federal pass-through money, Gainor said.
Two commissioners said it is unlikely the county can come up with money as a stopgap measure.
"Every day, we get bad news of new cuts," said Commissioner President Donald I. Dell. "Until that stops happening, I'm not willing tocommit for any project unless it's absolutely necessary."
Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy said the board hasn't formally discussed providing relief money to HSP, but would look for some "loose cash." He alsoexpressed hesitancy to commit money because of anticipated state cuts in local aid for a wide array of services later this fiscal year.
The money shortage has forced HSP to restrict occupancy of its 12-bed men's shelter to six. Until Nov. 1, when men leave the shelter, their spots will not be filled, said Gainor. Those inquiring about space at the shelter will be told to seek other options, she said, addingthat single men have an easier time finding alternatives than women with children.
"We need to solve the money problems before we openbeds," said Gainor. "It's easier to be homeless now than in November."
A woman staying in a shelter for about two months said it upsets her that many people will contribute to causes such as the gulf warbut seem to overlook human needs in their own communities.
"People always say, 'I pay my taxes,' but there's only so much government funding for these families," said the woman, who asked that her name not be used. "They need the extra help. I wish the public would see that taxes don't take care of everything."
The waiting list for women and children has ranged from 14 to 20 each week for the last month.
Donations can be sent to Human Services Programs of Carroll County, P.O. Box 489, Westminster, Md., 21158-0489. For information, call 857-2999.