Donations bail out Howard's emergency motel shelter program

April 21, 1993|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Staff Writer

The county's emergency motel shelter program, which was almost out of money a month ago, has received $27,000 in contributions from churches, businesses, individuals and the county government.

But if demand for the program continues to increase, the money won't last for long.

"I don't think anyone can sit back and say the program is fine now," said Andrea Ingram, director of Grassroots, the private nonprofit agency that manages the county program, which is intended to provide temporary shelter in local motels for the homeless.

"This was a crisis, but I hate to be running it as a crisis every two months," Ms. Ingram said. "I think we'll be spending next year looking for other sources of funding."

When the program was running low on funds last month Ms. Ingram wrote to all county churches asking each of them to contribute $175, which would pay for a week of shelter in a motel.

The program had spent $24,000 in four months and had only $3,000 left to last until June 30, the end of the fiscal year.

So far, 18 churches have responded with donations. In addition, individuals and local businesses came through with donations, for a total of $6,289 in private contributions.

"It's been very positive," Ms. Ingram said. "The churches take seriously their mission to help those in need."

To bolster the money received through private donations the county contributed another $21,000 to the program.

Susan Rosenbaum, assistant to the director of the Department of Citizen Services, said the money came from unspent county grant funds.

The private donations, combined with the county contribution, have restored the $27,000 that the program originally had available to pay for motel shelter. Of the original amount, $21,000 came from the county and $6,000 from a federal grant.

Despite the infusion of money, Ms. Ingram says that the program isn't out of the woods because the county has no plans to increase the program's $21,000 budget for motel stays next year.

Even if the program sets a limit of 10 cases in the shelter at a time, by June 30 that will cost $22,500, Ms. Ingram said.

From November through March, the program has handled 103 cases, or 242 people. Of those cases, 84 have been discharged, with 20 going to the Grassroots shelter and 64 going elsewhere. Most of the cases are families with children.

"I think it's clear the demand is greater than was anticipated when funding was planned," Ms. Ingram said.

Clients stay at the Copper Stallion Inn in Elkridge or the Westgate Motor Hotel just over the county line in Catonsville. The cost for shelter clients is $25 at the Westgate and $20 at the Copper Stallion.

In addition to seeking more money to keep the motel shelter program going, the county has tightened its eligibility guidelines.

Under the new rules, able-bodied individuals and couples without children who are not working in Howard County are not eligible for motel shelter. Also excluded from the program are people who have been evicted from subsidized housing because of drug activity.

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