Emergency motel shelter program available through Grassroots

November 30, 1992|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Staff Writer

Grassroots, which operates a homeless shelter and crisi hotline in Columbia, has begun providing emergency shelter at motels to homeless persons.

The group on Nov. 1 took over the $65,000 motel shelter program, which previously was run by the Community Action Council. Starting today, two full-time case managers will work with clients staying in the motels. The cost is covered through a $315,000 grant -- a combination of county and state money -- for preventing homelessness.

The goal is to help the motel clients design a plan that will allow them to live independently.

"The clients must be willing and able to confront the obstacles to finding permanent housing," said Grassroots executive director Andrea Ingram.

For example, if a client can't find a job, he or she should be ready to work closely with Grassroots staff to find one. This may involve applying for three jobs a day.

"It's a whole program, not just a roof over their heads," Ms. Ingram said.

Case manager Kerry Hall, plans to be in touch with the motel clients daily. Among other responsibilities, she will help unemployed clients apply for social services benefits and encourage them to see beyond their homelessness.

"Frequently when people are in crisis, they can't think of otheoptions," Ms. Hall said.

Since 1989, the Homeless Service Center grant has been administered by the Community Action Council. This year, the county allowed the components of the grant to be put out for bid separately.

Grassroots decided to bid on the motel shelter component because many of the clients staying in the motels moved on to the Grassroots shelter when space opened up there. In addition, the presence of staff at Grassroots 24 hours a day ensures there will be no delays in getting people into motels, Ms. Ingram said.

"We can start working with these people right away," Ms. Ingram said. "Overall, we hope it will reduce the time that people are homeless."

The motel shelter program is used as a backup when the 20 beds in the emergency shelter at Grassroots are full, which happens frequently. From July to October, the shelter has housed 71 people. Forty-five percent of the clients have either a diagnosed psychiatric illness or a substance abuse problem, Ms. Ingram said.

From July through September, Grassroots had to turn away 425 people who requested emergency shelter. Most of the inquiries were by telephone.

The $21,000 in grant money set aside for emergency motel stays must last until June 30.

Clients in the motel shelter program stay at the Westgate Motor Hotel, just over the county line in Catonsville or the Copper Stallion Inn in Elkridge. Under the program, a room costs $25 a night.

Currently, there are eight households of 19 people in the motel program.

PD Only Howard County residents are eligible for the motel shelter.

Non-county residents are referred to a shelter in their area. In addition, a motel stay is limited to eight weeks and potential clients are screened by case managers.

Case workers consider the reason for homelessness, ability to function in the motel, support systems and motivation to find permanent housing.

Homeless people with serious psychological or substance abuse problems, for example, would not be eligible for the motel program, which provides less supervision than the Grassroots shelter.

Instead, shelter staff would try to make a referral to an appropriate facility.

Those in need of emergency shelter may call Grassroots at 531-1002.

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