2 emergency shelters face cloudy futures Donation fall-off jeopardizes sites BALTIMORE CITY

December 16, 1992|By Laura Lippman | Laura Lippman,Staff Writer

Unless someone slips $100,000 under the tree for the Midtown Churches Community Association, the nonprofit agency may be forced to lay off workers and shut down two shelters that account for more than one-tenth of Baltimore's emergency shelter beds.

Because donations have fallen off sharply, the association plans to close on Jan. 1 the year-round shelter at Brown's Memorial Baptist Church in Northwest Baltimore, which provides up to 75 beds for men, women and children, and the winter-only facility at St. Ann's Roman Catholic Church in East Baltimore, with 100 beds for men.

Citywide, there are 1,562 emergency and long-term shelter beds available during the winter months. Most are provided by nonprofit organizations.

"This is painful -- we have 175 people who are not going to have shelter," said Esther R. Reaves, executive director of Midtown Churches, in a news conference yesterday at St. Ann's. "And we have 30-some staff [at the two facilities] who are going to be laid off the week after Christmas. It's devastating."

The association will continue to run the shelter at St. Mark's Lutheran Church, 1900 St. Paul St., a convalescent program for the homeless and the daily breakfast at Manna House, 435 E. 25th St. But the cutbacks will have a ripple effect because Manna House workers, no longer responsible for evening meals for Brown's and St. Ann's, will work fewer hours.

The problem is not budget cuts, explained Ms. Reaves, but the increasingly difficult task of raising money in the private sector.

The state this year allocated the same amount of money for homeless services, which is distributed by an office in City Hall. But, under the formula used by the state, Midtown Churches has not gotten enough in private donations to get as much in state funds as it received last year.

Midtown Churches has a budget of about $1.5 million, with $800,000 of it allocated for shelters. With private donations down $114,000 from last year, the state funds available to Midtown Churches dropped by $86,000, Ms. Reaves said. It would take at least $100,000 in private money and the missing $86,000 in state money to keep Brown's and St. Ann's open, she said.

Why has it been difficult to raise money this year? "Hurricanes. Somalia," Ms. Reaves said. "Everybody has their hand out."

Midtown Churches last year also received a one-time donation of $75,000 from the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, another factor in the steep drop-off in contributions.

Alarmed clients attended the news conference, many of them making the 90-minute walk from Brown's, 3215 W. Belvedere Ave. in Lower Park Heights, to St. Ann's, at 22nd Street and Greenmount Avenue.

Lauston Williams, 42, has relied on Brown's off and on the past two years, staying there when he found himself between jobs and short of money. He isn't sure what he will do now that he no longer has Brown's to fall back on.

"Maybe we're going to have to utilize some of these vacant houses in Baltimore," Mr. Williams said. "Closing a shelter is the same as closing the police department."

Robert Taylor, 35, credits St. Ann's with setting him on the road to sobriety a year ago. Mr. Taylor said he kicked his drug problem after the staff at St. Ann's found a substance-abuse program for him. He now has his own apartment and is looking for work, but his monthly public assistance check barely covers his rent since it was cut in the last round of state budget cuts.

"I don't want to be back here, but I don't want to see anybody in the streets, either," said Mr. Taylor, who proposed charging the homeless a modest fee for shelter.

Midtown Churches is negotiating with the city, which is committed to trying to keep the shelters open, said Johanne White, an administrative assistant in the Mayor's Office of Homeless Services.

But Ms. Reaves said only a "massive infusion" of money can keep St. Ann's open through April, its usual closing date, and Brown's operating through June 30.

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