Groups seek site for crisis center

24-hour facility would serve victims of violence, runaways

January 13, 2002|By Laura Vozzella | Laura Vozzella,SUN STAFF

A group that hopes to build a place for Howard County's homeless, runaways and others in crisis is getting close to picking a location and kicking off a fund-raising campaign for the $6.5 million center.

Three nonprofit organizations that teamed up to plan the 24-hour-a-day facility hope to choose one of three sites by the end of the month, said Jean Moon, a member of the Crisis & Support Center Coalition.

One spot under consideration is a former horse farm on the northeast corner of Old Montgomery Road and Route 100. The other two are near the Kings Contrivance Village Center and Long Reach High School.

"This is all about serving these underserved populations, people who are in crisis," Moon said. "Right this minute, we do not have 24-hour walk-in services for a rape victim. If you're a victim of domestic violence, you drive around in the car at 1 a.m. if you don't want to go to the cops."

The three nonprofits behind the center serve those populations, but officials said they cannot keep up with the growing demand for crisis services. The groups said they helped 35,629 people last year.

The nonprofits, which plan to move their offices into the new center, include: Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center, which offers a hot line, counseling and other services; the Domestic Violence Center, which provides shelter, counseling and legal assistance; and the STTAR Center, which helps victims of sexual abuse.

By sharing space in the planned 33,000-square-foot facility, the three organizations believe they will be able to serve more people, said Andrea Ingram, executive director of Grassroots.

"Now's the time to pull people together and see what we can do to form a crisis center that can respond to all of these problems," Ingram said.

Ingram said the idea for the center sprang from a strategic planning meeting for Grassroots about three years ago. With the county's population projected to keep growing, the organization realized it would have to expand or turn more people away, she said.

Grassroots approached the other two organizations, and together they received a $180,000 Horizon Foundation grant to begin planning the center.

"It just became so clear they're doing their best, but they're not doing enough for what this community needs," said Columbia Councilman Ed Stern of River Hill, who serves on the Grassroots board of directors.

Those needs are not always obvious in the tidy suburban county, Stern said, but they are there and growing.

"It's an affluent community," he said. "It's not a city. So, in a way, we're all behind our doors. It's not like you're in New York and Washington and you walk around and see people in distress. It's hushed up. ... People might not know it, but there's a lot of crisis out there - from teens to the elderly to the mentally unstable to drug and alcohol abuse."

Organizers hope to build the center on land that is donated or deeply discounted, Moon said.

Howard County owns the former horse farm site.

The Rouse Co. owns two other locations. One of the Rouse parcels is on the south side of Guilford Road between Hammond High School and the Kings Contrivance Village Center.

The other is on Old Dobbin Lane, across from Long Reach High School.

Alton J. Scavo, senior vice president of Rouse, said the company is considering donating or "subsidizing heavily" 3 or 4 acres for the project - once it has been determined that the location is appropriate.

"We would try to do our part," said Scavo, who is serving on a steering committee for the fund-raising campaign.

County officials could not be reached Friday to discuss their parcel.

Efforts to raise the $6.5 million needed to build the center will begin next month, Moon said.

Organizers hope to secure all of the necessary funding by June next year, probably with a combination of foundation grants, corporate gifts and federal, state and county governments.

They hope to break ground in the summer of 2003 and open the center in the fall of 2004.

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