Resurrection Farm shelter plans to close

Silver Run facility helped those in need for 20 years

`It was time to stop'

Shortage of housing likely to worsen, officials warn

Carroll County

January 05, 2003|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Clarification

An article in Sunday's editions of The Sun that reported that the Westminster Rescue Mission has converted its homeless shelter into an alcohol-rehabilitation facility should have stated that the mission keeps a reduced number of beds for emergency shelter. The mission provides three days of shelter to homeless men who have the option to stay longer if they are willing to join the rehab program.

A homeless shelter in Carroll County that was co-founded by a priest who pleaded guilty last year to child abuse is closing, a development that is likely to worsen a shortage of emergency housing in the county.

Resurrection Farm, which has offered shelter to the homeless, asylum to refugees and protection to victims of domestic violence for 20 years, will close at the end of the month, according to a recent letter from the mission's operators.

The founders of the shelter, which is near Silver Run in northern Carroll County, have sold the 180-acre property to a family from Bethesda that is not expected to carry on the shelter operation.

The closing adds to the shortage of emergency housing the county faces this winter, officials said.

In addition to the loss of Resurrection Farm, the Westminster Rescue Mission recently converted its homeless shelter into a six-month alcohol-rehabilitation facility. That leaves the county with nearly 50 fewer beds for the homeless.

"We could depend on the farm to house as many as 13 people at a time," said Mike Ritter, deputy director of Carroll's Department of Citizen Services. "Its closing does have an impact, especially when it comes at the same time as the Rescue Mission transition."

The Rev. Brian M. Cox, a suspended Catholic priest who in the fall pleaded guilty to molesting two boys two decades ago while he was associate pastor of St. John Catholic Church in Westminster, co-founded Resurrection Farm in 1982 as an emergency shelter. A prosecutor has said she would recommend a six-year prison term for Cox at his sentencing hearing, scheduled for this month.

Judy McPherson, the organization's secretary-treasurer and another co-founder of the mission, said the facility's closing is not related to charges brought against Cox, who was arrested in May.

She said the property is being sold to allow her and Cox to retire. Both are in their 60s and were considering retirement before the criminal charges were brought, she said. Cox declined to comment for this article.

Cox, McPherson and the organization's board of directors informed the Friends of the Farm, a group of benefactors, of the facility's imminent closing in a letter last month.

Undisclosed buyers who have agreed to purchase the farm have "their own vision of healing and spiritual work for these grounds" but will not continue to operate the shelter, according to the letter.

After its establishment in 1982, the farm's house quickly became a full-time shelter and the mission's focus shifted to transitional housing with a staff of volunteers who concentrated on the long-term and unique needs of the residents.

"We supported the whole place on donations that most often came through the mail," McPherson said. "We had close calls and we often wondered about the future, but we were never without."

The organization reported that it received charitable contributions of $99,149 and incurred expenses of $110,030 in 2001, according to the Maryland Secretary of State's office.

"We have had good support throughout, including this past year," said McPherson. "But, all of us who are involved are getting older and the hours we put in were long."

Over the years, the farm has housed about 350 people, including several newborns, and the organization has paid for motel rooms for at least another 150, she said.

"We never gave people a time limit for staying," McPherson said. "As long as they were working toward a goal, we would work with them, regardless of their situation."

Volunteers for the agency, along with residents, farmed about half the acreage and cared for domestic animals. The property includes a barn and several outbuildings and pastures, wooded areas and a glen with a stream that often served as a small campground.

Residents of the farm came primarily from Carroll County, but many also arrived from Pennsylvania and Baltimore. They included entire families that had fallen on hard times, women and their children seeking escape from domestic violence, migrant workers and, in some cases, refugees from undeveloped countries.

"People were referred to us from all kinds of agencies and community organizations," McPherson said. "They are still referring people to us."

The letter to Friends of the Farm states that the nonprofit fund known as Resurrection Farm Inc., "will continue the mission of helping people without resources who are in need of housing and other basic needs."

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