Crisis center decision not one to make in fear I am...

Letters

February 17, 2002

Crisis center decision not one to make in fear

I am writing in support of the Crisis and Support Center of Howard County that would house Grassroots, the Domestic Violence Center, and the STTAR Center. These agencies are in the process of holding forums near each of the three proposed sites to allow citizens the chance to provide input on the Crisis Center. Given the community reaction at the first two forums, it must have been a painful process for the directors of these agencies whose sole interest lies in providing needed services to our most vulnerable citizens in a manner that maximizes resources.

It is clear that there is much opposition to at least two of the three proposed sites. I attended the forum in Kings Contrivance and was taken aback by the amount of rage in the room. Clearly, the level of rage was due to fear. People repeatedly stressed the danger that "those people" would pose to their children. At one point, a child actually testified to the fact that she would be fearful walking back and forth to school if the crisis center was built. How could a parent pass on these types of stereotypes of homeless people and of victims to their children? It was shameless.

The agency directors came to these forums to provide education to allay the fears of the community. However, it did not appear that people in the community were open to what they had to say. With the exception of two or three brave residents who testified in support of the center, most people had already decided that the center would be a menace to the community. No level of information could have changed their minds. Please visit the agencies and find out more about what they do and who they serve so judgments can be made based on facts, not fear.

I've been in the Grassroots shelter and seen the men, women, children and families who stay there. These are not "those people." They are often people who are down on their luck - who lost their jobs or had a medical emergency and had no resources to fall back on. Don't we all know people who live from paycheck to paycheck?

Communities are understandably concerned that shelter residents will be active substance abusers. While it is true that some of the people staying with Grassroots have histories of substance abuse, the agency does not tolerate people using drugs or drinking while in the shelter. Random drug screens and participation in recovery programs are required. Grassroots philosophy has always been to help people who want help and are willing to work at it. They are not and never have been a city shelter whose mission is to provide shelter just for the sake of getting people off the street for the night. Grassroots requires shelter residents to follow stringent rules. People who can't follow the rules cannot remain at the shelter. Alternative arrangements are found. Grassroots does not turn people out on the street and leave them to wander about in the community.

These agencies are good neighbors and have excellent reputations for providing quality services to Howard County citizens. People have testified to this in the forums. Don't we owe these agencies the courtesy of looking at their history of being good neighbors as part of evaluating their ability to reside peacefully in the proposed locations? They have earned our respect, proved to be good neighbors, and provided services to our community with extremely limited resources. As Howard County citizens, we should support and applaud them in their new venture.

Lori Somerville

Ellicott City

Put the crisis center on Old Montgomery Road

I'm writing to express my support for the crisis and support center that is being planned in Howard County. I think the location on Old Montgomery Road near Brightfield Road is a good choice. I live in the area. I think the center will bring many benefits to our community, one being increased property values. If you take a blank sheet of paper and then tape a wedding band, coin or dollar bill to it, is it worth more than the original blank paper? Yes it is. A $6.5 million structure will add to the value of our surrounding land just as the new office buildings have.

The services are greatly needed. We are the clientele, so there is no greater safety threat to our neighborhood that does not already exist. Helping people in need adds color to our lives. Having the center very close may encourage more surrounding community residents to become more socially aware and active within their community. The center may also provide a few jobs. Someone could have a three-minute commute, walking.

The crisis and support center is something I want in my backyard.

Jeffrey Rose

Ellicott City

Patapsco environment a treasure to preserve

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