City board fires homeless shelter manager

Official thinks workers were under the influence of alcohol, drugs on job

May 09, 2002|By Gady A. Epstein | Gady A. Epstein,SUN STAFF

The O'Malley administration fired yesterday the organization that manages a homeless shelter and drop-in center that serve people with drug and alcohol abuse problems, as city officials described an operation that provides few services and employs unqualified staff, including some who have appeared at times to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The $350,000-a-year contract with the Baltimore-based Center for Applied Nomadology was terminated yesterday by the Board of Estimates at the request of the city's Office of Homeless Services.

The center operates a roughly 40-bed emergency shelter at 700 N. Eutaw St., and Oasis Station, a 24-hour drop-in facility at 220 N. Gay St., both of which the city plans to keep open with new managers.

Both are supposed to serve homeless people with drug and alcohol problems, but the office's director, Alex Boston, said he was dissatisfied with what he saw on recent visits.

"At times the staff members appeared to be under the influence of substances, whether it was alcohol or illegal substances I couldn't say," Boston said. "That's unacceptable."

Boston said neither location seemed to offer a structured program of counseling, referrals or regular meetings for people with alcohol and drug problems.

"My view is essentially the people who have been utilizing those facilities have had a roof over their heads for the time that they were there," he said. "They were probably provided some meals, but limited."

The center's executive director, Andrew Taylor, told members of the Board of Estimates that his staff is qualified and that the city contract does not require significant services beyond providing beds for clients. He also said he and his center's board had addressed the city's concerns in a meeting in July with the former homeless director, Leslie H. Leitch.

When it became clear O'Malley, who sits on the five-member Board of Estimates with two of his top appointees, was inclined to terminate the contract, the center's attorney, Thomas McKeon, informed city officials that it would drop its opposition to the termination.

Boston said yesterday that the Prisoner's Aid Society has agreed to run the shelter, and another nonprofit group, I Can Inc., is slated to take over Oasis Station. He says he hopes the changeover will occur soon.

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