Looking for shelter NIMBYism: Sensible discussion, not confrontation, needed to address social needs.

November 04, 1997

THERE'S A STRONG wave of NIMBY-ism sweeping from Westminster to Henryton, when it comes to finding a place to help the unfortunate in our midst.

A Carroll County homeless shelter for greater Westminster is still without a home, after months of bickering and negotiating between county and city officials. Westminster leaders reject the county's favored site, across from the County Office Building.

Just as troubling is the backlash against plans of the non-profit City of Hope to establish a shelter for homeless men and a drug-rehabilitation center on the Henryton land it recently leased from the state. Residents of nearby communities in Carroll and Howard counties have organized to oppose the project -- after the lease-purchase agreement was signed by the state and an Owings Mills-based charity.

Their efforts focus on blocking Carroll County zoning changes for the social services complex at the former state tuberculosis center.

Opponents complain that several Carroll officials knew of the international charity's plans for more than a year and did not inform the public. The degree of detail about, and attention to, the proposal at that time is in dispute. But some of those parties are backing off their previous support for the 50-acre project.

There are legitimate community concerns about the number of clients that will be served by the agency's complex and the security arrangements. The southeastern Carroll complex is close enough to existing neighborhoods for possible problems with walkaway clients.

Indeed, these issues should have been raised before the contract was signed. Harvest International Inc., the project's parent group, is now considering changes, to reduce neighborhood tensions and improve the chance of zoning approval. The drug-rehab program may be dropped, at least for now.

People will look for reasons to oppose social rehab programs in their community, whether in a group home next door or an institutional setting. In Westminster, there's no dispute over the need for a shelter, only where to build it. The City of Hope was welcomed initially as a good use of vacant land. Working out the details requires good-faith discussion on all sides, not an automatic rejection simply because it may be in "my back yard."

Pub Date: 11/04/97

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