Thinking of the homeless Carroll County: Government needs to get on with building shelter, despite city objections.

December 22, 1997

AT A TIME of year when many people remember the plight of the homeless, it's imperative for the Carroll County commissioners to do so -- and take action.

Through vacillation on choosing the site of a new homeless shelter, the county has lost a $125,000 federal grant for the facility.

Its latest choice for the shelter has aroused strong opposition from the city of Westminster, and the promise of a prolonged fight over impact of the shelter on nearby wetlands and streams. The city also pulled back its pledge of $72,000 toward the $320,000 project.

Location of the new shelter for 30 mentally ill homeless persons has been a hot potato for more than a year, since the county sold the existing shelter site to Carroll County General Hospital. The hospital has delayed taking possession until the county builds a new shelter.

It is past time for county officials to proceed with building the new shelter, before more time and money are lost and before the hospital loses patience. The county says it intends to reapply for the federal grant (and presumably to foot the remainder of the cost itself).

Sadly, the total cost will be higher, despite federal support of the Safe Haven shelter. The county will have to pay to mitigate storm water runoff damage from the site, and to obtain required state permits. The city of Westminster could pose other roadblocks.

But there is no turning back now. The county asked the city to pick an alternative site, after the commissioners vetoed their original location for various reasons.

County commissioners screened a list of 26 sites suggested by a joint city-county committee, before picking the location near the County Office Building in Westminster. That delay lost the grant.

There is no reason to believe that further consultation and negotiation with the city, or a further site search, will produce a better solution.

Pressing ahead with the chosen shelter site in the Crowltown section of Westminster appears the only way to get the facility built in a reasonable period. The state is not opposed. And county commitment to that plan may, indeed, persuade Westminster officials that they have an obligation to help those who most need it in the community.

Pub Date: 12/22/97

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