Shelters operating in the red Service agency faces budget difficulties

September 13, 1992|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff Writer

The headlines on a story in the Sept. 13 issue of The Carroll County Sun incorrectly suggested that shelters run by Human Services Programs Inc. were operating in the red.

The agency does not have a deficit, and its shelters are not at risk of being closed.

9- The Carroll County Sun regrets the error.

The agency that operates local homeless shelters won't have the money it hoped for this year to add new staff members and convert some part-time jobs to full-time.

Human Services Programs Inc., a private non-profit agency that relies on state and county contracts to provide social services, faced frozen state budgets and got no increases for shelters or emergency assistance programs from the county for 1991-1992.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

But the county commissioners did allocate $34,635 for salary and fringe benefits for an additional administrative assistant for the agency.

Human Services Programs Inc. has gone two months into the fiscal year without approval of its $1.4 million budget from its board of directors, which failed to muster a quorum at the June, July and August board meetings. But agency officials say the lack of approval doesn't affect their ability to operate programs.

"If the board never ratified the budget, it would not affect that much," said Executive Director Sylvia M. Canon.

She explained that most of HSP's budget is fixed by the agency's contracts to provide services ranging from homeless shelters to emergency food assistance.

The board can alter only one account, which includes income from fund raising and undesignated donations, she said. That account is budgeted at $14,200 for 1992-1993.

Board President Karen K. Blandford expressed her frustration when only six of the 15 board members came to the Aug. 20 meeting, one short of the number needed for voting.

"It blows me away that anyone could take that lightly," she said, adding that she needed feedback from the board. "I don't want to be out there as a loose cannon president . . . without knowing how the board of directors feels."

Ms. Blandford said her reason for making an issue of the board vote, despite the lack of impact on most categories, was that the budget is a management tool.

Not having enough money to hire full-time workers for the shelter serving women and children means that clients sometimes have to deal with several staff members to get problems solved, children are confused because somany different people are in charge, and staff must spend more time reviewing situations than dealing with clients, said Linda Tully, the shelter's case manager.

"It makes for a lot of talk and a lot of 'hand overs' " as the 8 a.m.-to-4 p.m. worker hands over unsolved problems to the 4-to-8 p.m. worker, who in turn may have to refer them to the 8 p.m.-to-8 a.m. worker, Ms. Tully said.

She said weekends also are a problem as four or five workers rotate shifts.

Ms. Canon said the shelters need additional case manager time, either through conversions of part-time workers to full-time work or additions to the staff. Case managers help clients find ways to solve problems such as homelessness.

Kathy Bitzer, who coordinates services in the shelters, said she would like to pay the resident manager at the family shelter. RTC Human Services Programs is currently able to offer the manager only lodging in exchange for supervising meals and cleanups, and making sure that families follow shelter rules.

Ms. Canon pointed out that the shelter for women and children expanded from 14 to 36 beds in 1991-1992 without additional staff.

Expanding the shelter staff would add about $140,000 in salaries and fringe benefits to a budget category set at $315,400 this year. Ms. Canon said she would also like to add a full-time interviewer to evaluate requests for emergency assistance, add

a clerical worker and convert the volunteer coordinator's job from part-time to full-time.

The staff additions would have boosted the budget by about $235,000. The agency didn't get that money, but it did receive a $135,000 operating grant through the state Department of Human Resources for a new program that will serve teen and young adult parents and their children.

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