Renovations under way for homeless-family site

April 25, 1993|By Robert A. Erlandson | Robert A. Erlandson,Staff Writer

Renovations to turn two vacant buildings at Rosewood Center in Owings Mills into transitional housing for up to 23 homeless Baltimore County women and their children are scheduled to begin next week.

The center, similar to units operating in Baltimore City and Anne Arundel County, will offer women and their youngsters housing while they receive guidance and job training.

Drug counseling and other services to prepare them to enter the work force will be offered, said Frank W. Welsh, county director of community development.

A daycare center will be built as part of the project, which has been planned for about four years.

The state Board of Public Works approved Wednesday a 40-year lease, at $1 a year, to the Maryland Housing Research Corp. (MHRC), a nonprofit agency that develops affordable housing in the state. The company will use $1.14 million in loans and grants from the county, state and federal governments to renovate one of the buildings and build the daycare center. The work should take about three months.

The Whiting-Turner Contracting Co., which is headed by Willard Hackerman, a close friend of Gov. William Donald Schaefer, will donate an estimated $450,000 in labor and materials to renovate the second building.

"It's an investment that pays big dividends" by helping women with children become self-supporting, Mr. Welsh said. "We couldn't do it if we didn't have a place for the children."

More than 80 percent of the county's homeless people are women and children. Some are victims of domestic violence.

L "They have no skills, no jobs and no homes," Mr. Welsh said.

The center will open in early September, said Sandy Stewart, who was hired in March to be the director. Ms. Stewart once owned a company that did the same kind of work in Baltimore and Washington.

Social workers will find women who can most benefit from the structured living environment, which will include "a very strong component on self-sufficiency and work," said Camille B. Wheeler, county social services director.

The women will be on probation to show they can accept responsibility and the discipline of the work-a-day world. They will be able to spend up to two years at the center before moving to new homes, said Ms. Stewart.

"We are looking for women who are ready for the enormous job of getting their lives in order," she said, adding that the center "is not an adult baby-sitting service."

Governor Schaefer said the project "demonstrates how the state can find useful purposes for empty buildings."

The buildings formerly housed employees of Rosewood, a hospital for the mentally retarded that has been substantially downsized in recent years.

In January 1991, the Board of Public Works approved $150,000 for cleanup and asbestos removal at the two buildings. That work was completed while a joint county-state grant application moved through the federal bureaucracy. The county and the state were seeking a $1.88 million Department of Housing and Urban Development grant for a homeless shelter.

The community surrounding Rosewood supports the project because officials held meetings to inform them of the plans and explain the situation, said County Councilman Charles A. Dutch Ruppersberger III, D-3rd, who represents the area.

Last year, Rosewood's neighbors protested not being told that the number of mentally retarded people committed to Rosewood because of violent acts, including child sexual abuse, had increased. The controversy subsided after security measures were increased and Mr. Schaefer inspected the two buildings.

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