MTA and clergy unite to open homeless center

January 26, 1993|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,Staff Writer

One of Towson's homeless men had been sleeping in a graveyard. Another spent his nights in a garage.

Now, thanks to a generous lease from the Mass Transit Administration and the volunteer efforts of 37 Towson-area churches, those men, and a half-dozen more sleep in warmth and safety each night in what was once a travel agency.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer signed the lease yesterday for the new Joppa House shelter in the 600 block of York Road.

"If you think it [homelessness] couldn't happen to you, you are so wrong," the governor said. He commended members of the Assistance Center of Towson Churches for their work in organizing and operating the shelter, and members of his administration for their cooperation in providing the site -- a first for the MTA.

The storefront is one of several properties at York, Dulaney Valley and Joppa roads purchased by the state for construction of the Towson Transit Center in 1994.

The buildings eventually will be razed to make way for the bus depot. But the MTA has agreed to lease space to the shelter until April for just $10.

MTA planners said their construction schedule probably would allow the shelter to operate at the same site next winter, a prospect that organizers say they would welcome.

Daily operations are being supported by the churches and $5,600 in federal aid allocated by Baltimore County.

"The Lord has answered a lot of prayers and moved a lot of hearts to make this possible," said C. Carroll Miller, president of the Assistance Center. "The lease is the envy of anybody in Towson."

Joppa House opened its doors Jan. 15 with the capacity to shelter 12 to 14 men between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. daily. Church volunteers are providing hot dinners and carry-out breakfasts.

Don O'Rourke, 56, a VISTA volunteer with the Maryland Food Bank and now director of Joppa House, said his nightly clientele has gradually increased as word has spread among the homeless.

"They want to stay in Towson, and they're going to stay in Towson one way or the other," he said.

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