Bel Air site picked for planned shelter

November 14, 1993|By Phyllis Brill | Phyllis Brill,Staff Writer

Harford County has selected a site near Bel Air for a shelter for women and children that could eventually house up to 16 people for several months.

County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann announced Wednesday that she would ask the Harford County delegation to support passage of a $500,000 bond bill during the coming legislative session to cover the cost of renovating and enlarging the county-owned house on North Tollgate Road.

The shelter, which is not likely to open before next fall, would replace ECHCO House, the transitional shelter for women and children that has been operating in Street since February 1991.

ECHCO House is run by Ecumenical Community of Harford County, a nonprofit coalition of county religious leaders, Associated Catholic Charities and businesses. The house can accommodate eight women and children. The families stay anywhere from three months to a year.

The new site, just outside Bel Air, is more centrally located and, with a proposed addition, could house twice as many people, officials said.

Plans for the expanded shelter come on the heels of a housing study by the Enterprise Foundation that concluded that Harford County needs more affordable housing for low- and middle-income people.

The study, which was completed last spring and published in late summer, indicates that single-earner households, the elderly and the disabled, in particular, have limited choices of affordable housing in the county.

The Enterprise Foundation, a nonprofit organization created by Columbia developer James W. Rouse, has a national reputation for working with neighborhood groups and local organizations to advance housing programs for low-income people.

The Harford County assessment was commissioned a year ago by a committee representing Harford County government, the Harford County Association of Homebuilders and ECHCO, who paid Enterprise $9,000 to research the county's resources and needs and to make broad recommendations.

Increasing the supply of emergency shelters that would serve as transitional housing from homelessness to affordable housing was one of several recommendations in the final report.

That means more housing for single mothers with young children, said Mrs. Rehrmann, who held a press conference at vTC the proposed site Wednesday with other members of the committee.

The 1,560-square-foot building, originally built as a two-family house, has been used by the Department of Public Works for office space in recent years and is currently used by the county for storage.

ECHCO officials said the move from the northern county to a more central location will benefit residents of the shelter by putting them closer to critical community services.

"This is near shopping, transportation, medical services -- all a family would need early in the intervention stage of getting them into independent living," said Barbara Jones, program manager for ECHCO House.

She said that because residents often stay several months, there is not a huge turnover, "but we get calls daily from people asking if a room is available. So the possibility of being able to serve maybe twice as many people is exciting."

The existing ECHCO House staff includes two full-time and three part-time employees.

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