A 10-year-old homeless shelter in Lansdowne, which doubles as a classroom for poor families seeking basic life skills, is struggling to raise funding to remain open this spring -- even though local politicians have offered last-minute help.
Brenda Pendergrass, executive director of Hearth House on Laverne Avenue, said she needs to raise at least $5,000 in private donations or the shelter may close until the next fiscal year begins July 1 and it receives new funding.
Some relief came recently from First District County Councilman Stephen G. Sam Moxley, a Catonsville Democrat, who pledged to help obtain a $10,000 federal Community Development Block Grant for the shelter for homeless women and children.
But even that grant, awaiting final approval by county agencies, falls $10,000 short of the amount necessary to operate the shelter, in the tiny southwestern Baltimore County community near the Harbor Tunnel, through this fiscal year.
An additional county grant of $5,000 would be available if the shelter can raise $5,000 in private donations, Pendergrass said.
"We do have the support of Sam Moxley, and we're at this point crossing our fingers," Pendergrass said. If the grants don't come through, she said the shelter likely would close.
Hearth House, one of seven shelters in the county, has in the past few years raised about $8,000 privately, a fraction of its $117,135 annual budget.
The shelter, which can accommodate four homeless families for average stays of six to nine months, qualified for a United Way grant this year.
This year it qualified for a United Way grant to help support efforts to maintain the housing of four homeless families at a time, with an average stay at the shelter of six to nine months.
For those families, the shelter sponsors life skills courses such as budget management, a high school GED diploma program, interview and job education, health consultations with a staff nurse and referrals to day care for children. Each family must enroll in a mandatory savings plan, Pendergrass said.
Pendergrass said the nonprofit shelter's board and many of its volunteers and part-time employees are trying to raise additional money this month, mainly from Lansdowne businesses.
But that is tough, she said, because, "we sit in the heart of a very economically depressed community."
Moxley said he intervened in early April to try to obtain the block grant because of the shelter's importance in the neighborhood. He wrote to County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger asking for the additional federal funds.
"I think they are a very worthy organization," Moxley said. "Because they are nonprofit, they can do things that a government agency cannot do. There are certain things they can emphasize -- not religion but more pride and dignity and human values. Hearth House has an excellent percentage of victories."