Shelter in city seeks money

Light House asks Annapolis for $400,000 to expand


After several years of being forced to turn away hundreds of homeless people seeking help, an Annapolis shelter is looking to expand.

The Light House Shelter wants to build a facility with 50 beds and six apartments that would either replace or supplement its 15-bed, two-apartment facility at 206 West St.

Joseph Gill, president of Annapolis Area Ministries, the organization that operates the shelter, asked the city council Monday night for $400,000 toward the project.

At a public hearing on Mayor Ellen O. Moyer's $68.6 million operating budget, he said the 18-year-old shelter for men, women and children can't keep up with the demand for its services.

In 2005, it served 122 adults and 13 children - but had to reject 222 adults and 66 children.

"We turn away twice as many people as we serve," Gill said. "We need to build a new shelter to help those people, and a good place to start is the city and county government."

The proposed $4 million emergency shelter for families and single adults would also function as a drop-in center where clients could get food, clothing and other services.

To pay for it, the shelter is also asking for $800,000 from Anne Arundel County's fiscal 2007 capital budget. Last year's state budget included $200,000 for the project, money that the organization still has to match before securing.

The shelter is looking for land in Annapolis and elsewhere in Anne Arundel County and could open the new facility in two to three years, Gill said.

At Monday's public hearing, Moyer asked Gill about possibly locating the facility at the former Crownsville Hospital Center site, but Gill said the site has too many environmental problems.

Moyer said it was unlikely that funds would be available, given that the sum equals the total amount the city allots to all nonprofit groups.

The lack of a clear plan is also a roadblock, Moyer said.

"When they find a site, the city will likely contribute to a building program," she said. "That would be a much better time to request money, when they have a location and some definite plans."

Alderman Samuel Shropshire of Ward 7 voiced support for the project, adding that allocating $115,000 a year over the next three years would be ideal. He also said a new shelter should be located in Annapolis. Forty percent of the shelter's clients come from the city.

"Any city that can have $3 billion in yachts sitting in the harbor can afford to fund a new homeless shelter," he said.

Ward 8 Alderman Josh Cohen said there is a need for a larger facility near a bus route but that locating the new shelter in Annapolis could pose problems.

"It's important not to concentrate services all in one area because there is a saturation point," he said. "Sometimes the clients can really put a strain on the neighborhood."

The shelter wasn't the only project seeking additional funding in the budget. The Historic Annapolis Foundation asked for $250,000 for its new downtown visitor center.

The budget, which represents a 10 percent spending increase over the current fiscal year, includes salary increases for public works employees and the addition of five police officers and as many as 12 firefighters. It leaves the property tax rate unchanged, but because of rising assessments, property tax bills would still rise.

Assessment increases for tax purposes are capped in the city at 10 percent a year, the state maximum.

The council must approve the budget by June 30. It will go into effect July 1.

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