WESTMINSTER — The homeless again have a warm place to have some soup and sleep safely on cold nights.
Shoemaker House, an addictions center that also serves as an emergency shelter, reopened in the city just in time for last week's snow.
"It was a blessing, it really was," said Jolene Sullivan, county director of citizen services. "Last Thursday, when the snow started coming down, I thought, 'There's a place.' "
Word of mouth had spread among people living in the streets so quickly that there was someone at the door on opening night last Wednesday, Sullivan said.
Shoemaker House, a brick ranch house, stands between the Carroll County Health Department and Carroll County General Hospital.
Because it was a public building with a 24-hour staff, and had couches and sometimes extra beds, Shoemaker served a secondary purpose as the county'semergency overnight shelter from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
State budget cuts in October closed the detoxification center operated there by the Carroll County Health Department. But with some shuffling of other programs, the building is now open for overnight shelter, said Larry Leitch, deputy health officer.
Although cuts remain in effect in thedetoxification program, the Health Department moved its other residential addictions program to Shoemaker from a building on the grounds of Springfield Hospital Center in Sykesville, Leitch said.
Becausebudget cuts have whittled that program almost in half, the 16 to 20 patients were able to move to the smaller space at Shoemaker, he said.
Most of the county's homeless people are in Westminster, so it made sense to keep the emergency shelter in the city, he said.
Before last week, anyone seeking emergency overnight shelter might have been sent to Lee's Motel, with the bill paid by Human Services Programs Inc. or the Salvation Army, two private agencies, Sullivan said.
"There were probably more that were out there on the street that we didn't know about," Sullivan said. While the program opened in time for the county's first big snow, she said she wished it could have been sooner.
"There were days when it was so cold, I was worried," she said.
In addition to its 24-hour-a-day availability, Shoemaker has the advantage of on-duty nurses if those seeking shelter need medical evaluation, Sullivan said.
The Health Department will be keeping the building at Springfield for the time being, Leitch said. Stateaddictions officials are hoping it can be reopened later.