Grassroots to shift long-term shelter to Ellicott City

May 09, 1994|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,Sun Staff Writer

Grassroots, one of the county's primary homeless shelters, plans to move its 12-bed, long-term shelter from its Columbia office to a site near downtown Ellicott City, creating the opportunity for the group to establish a new all-men's shelter.

The move of the shelter is expected in five to six months, when renovations on a county-owned house next to the Roger Carter Neighborhood Center on Fels Lane are scheduled for completion.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development gave Grassroots a $140,000 grant for the renovations.

Andrea Ingram, executive director of Grassroots, said she wants to use the 12 beds that would become vacant to house single, homeless men -- a population she says is severely neglected.

"We don't have much for making the [program] good for the men," Ms. Ingram said. "All I can tell you is, it has got to happen."

With the HUD grant, moving the long-term shelter to Ellicott City does not increase Grassroots' costs for housing homeless people.

But adding the men's shelter would require an additional $164,000 in operating costs above the private, nonprofit organization's $1.23 million budget for next year.

So far, the federal government has denied Grassroots two grants for the men's shelter. State funding for the homeless is not expected to increase during the next three years. And funding from United Way of Central Maryland to groups such as Grassroots is expected to drop 8 percent this year.

Therefore, Mrs. Ingram feels that much of the onus is left on the county to fund the project.

"I think the county's crossing its fingers and hoping that funding will come from somewhere else," Ms. Ingram said.

Grassroots' homeless statistics for the first three months of this year show the need for a men's shelter, Ms. Ingram said.

In January, for instance, 17 homeless men slept at least one night in the lobby of the Columbia shelter before Grassroots found suitable housing for them. The figure dropped to 13 the next month, but increased to 19 in March.

The men range in age from 20 to 40, with some having mental or physical disabilities that inhibit their ability to work, Ms. Ingram said.

To shelter them, Grassroots often must send them to other counties or to facilities in Baltimore or Washington, she said.

"It doesn't make us popular with other counties," Ms. Ingram said.

When there is room for the men, they share space in Grassroots' emergency shelter with women and their children, Ms. Ingram said.

"It's hard making it safe," Ms. Ingram said. "Some of the women are very vulnerable."

County Executive Charles I. Ecker is aware of discussions about a men's shelter in the county but said he would have to see what help the county could offer.

"We would like to support Grassroots," Mr. Ecker said. "They do a wonderful job. There could be some financial support, but we would have to see a proposal first. Certainly they have our moral support."

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