Homeless shelter seeks donors to cover cost of round-the-clock security

Safe Haven hard-pressed to meet $38,000 shortfall

July 06, 1999|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

Although the county commissioners rescued Safe Haven from its financial woes in May, shelter officials are still in need of donations to cover the cost of round-the-clock security.

Safe Haven, which is in the Shoemaker House near Carroll County General Hospital in Westminster, has 25 beds and serves homeless people with mental illness, substance abuse and addiction problems.

Human Services Programs of Carroll County Inc., a nonprofit corporation that operates Safe Haven and several homeless programs under contract with the county, has recommended the shelter have 24-hour security. It's a goal Safe Haven officials may be unable to meet because of a $38,000 funding shortfall.

"We've sent letters out to all of the county's churches, letting them know about our needs," said Jolene G. Sullivan, director of the Department of Citizen Services. The fund-raising campaign has raised $2,750.

The lack of funding may force the shelter to reduce its security staff for fiscal 2000, which began Thursday.

Instead of having an off-duty state trooper on the premises 24 hours a day, seven days a week -- as is the case now -- a trooper would be on duty weekdays from 4: 30 p.m. to 8: 30 a.m. Supervision during the remaining hours would be handled by two case managers and a resident assistant.

"I'm very concerned about this," said Sylvia Canon, executive director of Human Services Programs. "Our case managers are not trained to handle security issues. They don't go through the kind of training that law enforcement officers do. I'm hopeful that we will get the funding we need."

The shelter's financial troubles began in March, when its three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development ended. A temporary solution was reached when the state allowed the county to transfer $25,000 in state funds from the county mental health director's budget to the shelter to keep the facility open until the end of June.

But concerns about the shelter's fate lingered until May, when the county commissioners approved $167,000 in funding to cover Safe Haven's operating costs for fiscal 2000. Those costs include supplies, utilities and personnel, Sullivan said.

The shelter will reapply for HUD funds next year, she added. In addition, the county's six-member legislative delegation has been asked to find state funding for the homeless program, which has been looking for a suitable place to relocate for several months.

A new facility had been planned for Westminster, but a dispute over an appropriate location ended the project.

The commissioners dropped long-standing plans to build at a site on Stoner Avenue, near Safe Haven's current location, in favor of county-owned land near Route 140 and Center Street, an area once known as Crowltown. Westminster officials protested vehemently, and after more than a year of feuding, state officials asked the county to return a $125,000 federal grant that had been awarded for construction of the shelter.

The political battle and the shelter's financial problems put relocation plans on hold. The task force charged with finding an appropriate location for the facility stopped meeting in March.

"Our next endeavor will be to get the Safe Haven task force back together," said Sullivan, who hopes the 20-member task force will meet again this summer. "The shelter can stay where it is for two years, but we need to start looking for a new site as soon as possible."

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