City's 30 homeless shelters report operating at capacity

December 05, 1997|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

Baltimore's homeless shelters are operating at capacity and have been forced to turn away people even though this winter's coldest weather is still ahead, according to a survey released yesterday.

The survey by Action for the Homeless found that every shelter serving women and children in Baltimore was filled and that most shelters reported turning people away in recent weeks.

The Dec. 1 telephone survey did not collect specific data on the numbers of homeless being turned away from Baltimore's 30 shelters. But it found that many facilities are routinely operating beyond their capacity, said Ann Ciekot, deputy director of Action for the Homeless.

According to the survey, women at the South Baltimore Shelter for Women and Children at Christ Lutheran Church have been sharing beds to make room for the 53 people staying at the facility, designed to house 40.

"The numbers of people needing shelter are, without a doubt, increasing," Ciekot said.

She estimates that about 1,700 beds are available for the homeless in Baltimore, but that on any given night between 2,000 and 3,000 people are in need of shelter.

City officials say that the supply of beds for the homeless was crippled Nov. 8 when a ruptured gas line exploded at Franklin Street and Park Avenue, forcing the condemnation of the nearby YWCA that provided 73 beds for women and children.

"We just don't have a backup 73-unit shelter, so we were severely impacted," said Leslie Leitch, director of Baltimore's Office of Homeless Services.

Shelter operators say that demand for shelter has been increasing slowly but steadily in recent years.

Pub Date: 12/05/97

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