Homeless shelters program may end up on street Office workers receive July 15 eviction deadline

July 01, 1992|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff Writer

WESTMINSTER -- In two weeks, the people who run Carroll County's shelters for the homeless may be out of their offices with no place to go.

Human Services Programs Inc. would have to stop admissions to the homeless shelters and be unable to continue emergency aid programs -- with the possible exception of monthly surplus food distribution -- if the staff is evicted.

The county commissioners have no other office space to offer the private, non-profit agency that contracts with the county to operate aid programs. But Commissioner President Donald I. Dell says he isn't worried.

"I don't anticipate that [eviction] happening," Dell said. He said he expects the county Department of Social Services, HSP's host, to allow the staff to stay while the commissioners consider options.

Social Services Director M. Alexander Jones refused to say what steps he will take if HSP doesn't meet his July 15 deadline to vacate the office space. "I'm not free to discuss that," he said.

The state agency has donated offices since HSP was incorporated in 1987. Jones said Social Services needs the space for about nine more employees he is authorized to hire as of today, the start of the new fiscal year.

The state pays Carroll County $260,725 a year for 22,000 square feet occupied by Social Services in a county-owned building on Distillery Drive in Westminster. The HSP takes up about 3,700 square feet of the state-leased space.

The commissioners aren't legally obligated to help HSP find office space. "They're not being the bad guys if they don't. It's just that if we don't have the space, we can't do a lot of what we do," said Sylvia V. Canon, HSP executive director.

The agency would like to relocate on the ground floor of the building, now used for food-distribution programs, furniture and clothing storage and the Neighbors in Need annual holiday donations program.

It makes sense for HSP to be near Social Services because many clients receive aid from both agencies, Canon pointed out. She said renovations for office space would reduce ground-floor storage areas for donated clothing and furniture. Food Sunday could continue to operate its emergency food-distribution program on the ground floor; Neighbors in Need would have to be moved to another site.

The commissioners raised no objections to the proposal during a walk-through of the building several months ago, but they have not authorized the change.

Cost remains a sticking point. Canon said the HSP budget contains no money for renovations. Commissioner Dell said he is "not certain where we'd find the money, except to have the [county] staff do a lot of the work."

Keith Kirschnick, county director of Public Works and head of a space study committee, could not be reached for comment on the estimated cost of the renovations or what the committee recommends for HSP offices.

Canon said long-range planning has been difficult for her agency because "We're constantly in a growth mode."

She asked the commissioners to increase HSP's office space to about 9,000 square feet to meet existing needs. Those needs include a waiting room for the average 40 to 50 clients who come to the program daily, meeting room, volunteer work space, mechanical room for telephones and computer network routers, and space for copiers, mailing and fax equipment.

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