Plan to fund shelter for men faulted

August 02, 1994|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,Sun Staff Writer

A proposal that half of a $60,000 grant go toward a shelter for homeless men has drawn criticism from some advocates for the poor, who fear the residents would become dependent.

The advocates also contend that the money from the county's Grant-in-Aid program should be allocated more evenly among all county human services agencies.

"I think a men's shelter would create dependency for single men, especially young men," said Dorothy Moore, director of the Howard County Community Action Council, a private nonprofit organization that helps low-income people.

The county's Board on Homelessness will make recommendations to the County Council tomorrow on how the remaining $30,000 should be spent.

The board, made up of human services agencies throughout the county, plans to use its support for the men's shelter as leverage to win a $255,000 grant -- $85,000 a year for three years -- from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for the shelter.

The county's private, nonprofit human services agencies depend on the Grant-in-Aid money to help run their programs. The $60,000 is the only increase in Grant-in-Aid funds over last year's $2.82 million, and all human services agencies must apply for a portion of those funds to help pay for new programs, pay raises and other needs.

In July, the board recommended that $30,000 of the Grant-in-Aid money go toward the men's shelter. The shelter would be operated by Grassroots, one of the primary homeless shelters in the county.

Besides calling for a more even distribution of the $60,000, some advocates for the poor criticize the establishment of a homeless shelter for single men because they say it is not the way to keep the men off the streets.

"Single men need to take responsibility for their lives," said Ms. Moore, who is also seeking some of the Grant-in-Aid funds for her agency. "There's a need for permanent shelter."

Ms. Moore said a permanent shelter might include a shared living arrangement, allowing homeless men to pay reduced rent until they could fully support themselves. She said that would be a better alternative than temporary housing for the homeless men.

Ms. Moore sits on the board, but did not attend the July meeting. She said that she plans to testify at tomorrow's meeting.

Robert Mulderig, co-chairman of the Board on Homelessness, said members of his board decided at their July 6 meeting to designate so much of the extra Grant-in-Aid money to the men's shelter because they wanted to show their support and the need for such a program.

"I think there's a legitimate need," said Mr. Mulderig, who is also the deputy director of the county's Department of Housing and Community Development.

"My impression is that we have not been able to service all the homeless men. . . . My understanding is that there have been numerous turn-aways."

Andrea Ingram, executive director of Grassroots, pointed specifically to the coldest months of this year -- January through March -- when some homeless men had to sleep in the lobby of the organization's main lobby in Columbia.

In January, for example, 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, she said.

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

Last month, the United Way of Central Maryland allocated $14,000 a year for two years to Grassroots for the men's shelter.

"We're trying to put money where it is needed," Ms. Ingram said. "I personally think the men are worthy of our service. The homeless board is making this a top priority."

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