Two family shelters in trouble Agency needs $32,000 for bills

April 26, 1993|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff Writer

Waiting for a home is tough enough when you don't have one, but things could get worse if Carroll County loses its only two single-family shelters, say officials who operate them.

Unless the agency can raise $32,000 this year to pay bills for the two houses, they could close, said Sylvia Canon, director of Human Services Programs of Carroll County Inc.

Last year, a single donation of $32,000 saved the shelters, she said. But she doesn't know who the donor was.

That money is running out, after it paid for a year's utilities, salaries for case managers, insurance and an $800 furnace repair. The houses used for the shelters are owned by the city of Westminster and provided rent-free to the agency.

While the history of the money crunch lies in a competitive and political state process of awarding federal grants, Ms. Canon said, the future lies in raising the money locally, especially through churches and community groups.

"We're down to the pennies here," she said, adding that only $3,000 remains in the fund that is used to operate the two shelters. "We're going to run them every minute we can run them."

The two shelters are never vacant, and both have waiting lists.

Two families are waiting this month to use the facilities, said Daphne Murray, the case manager. "They try to stay with friends and relatives."

Such arrangements can't last long if the friends or relatives live in federally subsidized housing, which limits how long guests may stay, she said.

Families on the waiting list are always told of the option of going to shelters in Baltimore, which do have room, Ms. Canon said, but very few Carroll residents want to go that far. Those who do usually have some connection to the city, such as family living there.

Human Services often can take women and children into its other shelters, but that can mean splitting a family between facilities.

Fathers and teen-age sons can't stay in those shelters, and the agency's shelter for men is always full, with a two- to three-week waiting list, Ms. Canon said.

"We're trying to keep the families intact," Ms. Murray said.

A family may stay for up to 12 weeks in the shelters. The average is about six weeks, Ms. Canon said.

This year's money crunch resulted because the agency again was unable to get federal money through the Emergency Shelter Program, administered by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.

"This is chapter two of a story that began last year," Ms. Canon said.

Human Services got money for the program in the 1990-91 fiscal year, but not in the next two years.

The agency did apply, Ms. Canon said, and its proposal was rated high by a committee of state officials that made a recommendation to the governor on which proposals to fund. But when Gov. William Donald Schaefer made his decision, Ms. Canon said, Carroll didn't get any money.

She said she found out a few weeks ago that Carroll wouldn't get any money again this year.

For the 1992-93 fiscal year, which ends in September, only those programs funded the year before were allowed to apply and not all of them got money, said Charles Smallwood, director of community services in the state housing office.

"This program is losing funds quite rapidly on the federal level," Mr. Smallwood said.

In the 1991-92 fiscal year, the state had $240,000 in federal money for the program and $600,000 in requests, he said.

Carroll had requested about $46,000, Ms. Canon said, and the committee had recommended giving the county about $32,000.

But it got nothing by the time Governor Schaefer made his decision.

Ms. Canon, exasperated, tried to corner the governor on the issue at a fund-raising dinner but didn't get anywhere, she said.

"It's too late. We won't get any state money this year," she said.

So she has channeled her energy to local fund raising. She has printed circulars to distribute to area churches in their bulletins.

She also has broken down the figures so they have more impact, so even small donors can envision an effect.

"There are a lot of different sizes of pie: $376.47 pays for one person's entire stay; $28 pays for one night for one person; $196 pays for one person for one week," she said.

While the agency hopes for money to come in, it will examine how long that remaining $3,000 will last, she said.

Phone marathons by volunteers are raising pledges, she said, "but you can't pay the BG & E bill with pledges."

She said donations may be mailed to Human Services, P.O. Box 489, Westminster 21158.

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