Spare the homeless

October 08, 1992

Homelessness may not be at the top of most people's lists of pressing problems in Carroll County, but the Human Services Program, which operates the county's homeless shelters, finds itself in a serious bind.

Virtually every bed in its three shelters is filled, and the organization's overworked staff is stretched to the limit.

With the recession showing no signs of abating and with colder weather approaching, demand for space in the shelters has increased. Carroll is fortunate in that it can offer enough beds for those who need them.

The problem is that there are not enough professional case managers -- particularly for women -- to help the shelter residents get back on their feet. HSP would also like to increase the minimal pay its facility managers earn. To be properly staffed, HSP needs another $140,000.

The staffing difficulties can be traced to the fact that HSP has received a number of fixed amount, multi-year contracts to operate the shelters. These contracts don't have provisions that take into account any increase in the number of people seeking shelter and services.

Some of these contracts were awarded before HSP expanded its pool of beds by opening a women and children's shelter in the Barrel House in Westminster last year.

However, no staffers were added to take care of the additional caseload.

Carroll residents have been most generous in supporting the shelters with donations of food, money and time, said Karen Blandford, who chairs the HSP board.

Even though programs for the homeless are needed more than ever, the state's budget crisis has made them a target for spending cuts. It should also be noted that cuts are not always made for fiscal reasons alone.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer took out his anger at Carroll's legislative delegation for not supporting his budget package by denying HSP a family services grant, even though its application was ranked best in the state.

Now, concern abounds that the program's budget, which is already stressed, might be cut even more. Carroll's homeless program should not be sacrificed.

The county commissioners have spared this program in the past. They should continue that practice now.

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