County OKs teen runaway home Up to five youngsters to get short-term care

September 26, 1997|By Laura Sullivan | Laura Sullivan,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County has licensed a new short-term home for runaway teen-agers several blocks from a Pasadena neighborhood that recently celebrated the announced closing of group home for troubled teens.

Citing increasing demand to house hundreds of runaway teens, the county licensed Shelter from the Storm home in the 8100 block of Jumpers Hole Road on Wednesday to house five girls and boys for up to two weeks.

The one-story house sits on 4 1/2 acres surrounded by woods near the rear of a strip shopping center.

"Because the house is somewhat secluded, it doesn't have the fear syndrome in the community other shelters have," County Executive John G. Gary said. "It's a private, beautiful setting."

It is the first shelter of its kind in the county, and funded largely by a $100,000 federal grant and the county. The county has budgeted $55,000 for the home next year. The home also has brought in $25,000 in private donations.

"Family reunification is the goal when it is possible," said Christine Washburn, director of the home. "But we also want to create a network of support for [runaways] to use in the future."

Gary said that while the shelter is meant for Anne Arundel's teens, it would not turn away homeless teens from Baltimore, especially because city shelters have taken care of county teens for years.

Officials expect that the home, which is to open Monday, will be filled almost immediately.

"This was a godsend for the Police Department," said Sgt. Bonnie Welsh.

An estimated 2,000 teens in Arundel are picked up on the street or call community hot lines each year.

In the past, they would sometimes have to wait hours until social workers could place them in a foster home or return them to their families, Welsh said.

Police and social workers now will have two weeks to decide what's best for the teens and offer them and their families counseling in the meantime, said Adel O'Rourke, director of Harundale Youth and Family Service Center, the nonprofit agency in charge of running the home.

"Some kids are running away from sexual or physical abuse," O'Rourke said. "In that time they are here, we can hook them up with services."

The project to acquire the house and set up a shelter began several years ago.

The house belongs to the county and was once a halfway house for substance abusers, but it was in such disrepair that it needed substantial work. Most of the painting, electrical and structural improvements were done by volunteers.

The youth center is renting the home for $1 a year.

Sponsors think the home will fare better than its nearby counterpart, the Martin Pollak group home for girls, which announced last week it would begin shutting down to move to Baltimore County or Baltimore City. The home came under fire at community association meetings from neighbors who said it was not well supervised.

The new home will be staffed by a director, three full-time counselors, four part-time counselors and a part-time certified teacher.

Pub Date: 9/26/97

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