Ministers to try a homeless shelter that moves from church to church

September 02, 1992|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writer

Clergy in the northern part of the county are asking churches to open their doors during winter's coldest months and shelter up to a dozen homeless men.

"We are looking for 16 churches to allow their buildings to be used for one week [each] from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.," said the Rev. Richard Hase, of St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Glen Burnie.

Moving the shelter among churches avoids several potential drawbacks. No one church would have to bear the cost and burden, he said, and "by rotating this around, we don't have to meet the zoning and other regulations, let's be honest."

Neighborhood objections would be minimized, he noted.

Plans call for the all-volunteer "Winter Relief for the Homeless" to start Nov. 23 and run for 16 weeks, one at each participating church. The shelter has been talked about for several months by a small group that grew out of the Glen Burnie Ministerium, a coalition of some two dozen area churches. Organizers said their temporary shelter plan is a workable alternative to a permanent shelter, though that might be a later goal.

North County has no homeless shelter. Last winter, homeless people shivered under viaducts along state Route 100, slept in cars parked in lots off Ritchie Highway and found their ways to partly boarded up buildings, said Peggy Vick, director of the Salvation Army in Northern Anne Arundel. A total of 1,355 people spent 32,553 nights at shelters in Annapolis and Fort Meade and motel shelters in the county last year, she said, and the Salvation Army's approximately $3,500 federal emergency shelter grant was used quickly.

Jacki Coyle, pastoral associate at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Glen Burnie, said churches could provide a bathroom and space for overnight housing for six to 12 men, or provide dinner or breakfast, or supply volunteers to serve food or work either of two shifts during the night. Bedding would be provided by the Salvation Army, which also would handle referrals to the shelter.

Ms. Vick and Ms. Coyle have committed their groups to help the shelter. At least a dozen other churches expressed interest at a meeting held Monday night at Glen Burnie United Methodist Church.

Some small churches that lack space for beds are likely to have congregants who wish to volunteer, said the Rev. Brad Allison of Glen Burnie Evangelical Presbyterian Church, itself a small church. Some larger churches, if interested in providing shelter, would have to figure out how to juggle day care, evening meetings and other uses with providing for the homeless men.

"In this congregation and others, there are people with a social conscience," said the Rev. Olin Herndon of Glen Burnie United Methodist Church. Churches interested in assisting should contact him at 761-4381 or 766-2661 by Oct. 1. Participating churches and groups will meet again early next month.

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