Annapolis shelter considers move

Board to vote on building a $6.8 million homeless center near Parole

March 25, 2007|By Susan Gvozdas | Susan Gvozdas,Special to The Sun

The board of Annapolis' sole homeless shelter will vote this week on a $6.8 million plan to leave West Street and open a larger facility near the Parole border.

If approved, the new Light House Shelter would open in a 12,000-square-foot building at 11 Hudson St., about 1.5 miles from its cramped site at 206 West St.

It would have 50 beds and five apartments for families, along with a drop-in center for the homeless honoring the memory of a slain Annapolis archaeologist.

The tentatively named Katherine Randolph White Memorial Center would also give people who don't want to stay in shelters a place to shower and receive mail.

The shelter's board will decide whether to move forward with the relocation at its meeting Saturday at Calvary United Methodist Church, said Toni Graff, executive director of Annapolis Area Ministries Inc., the nonprofit that runs the shelter.

The current shelter, which is 5,400 square feet, has 15 beds and two apartments for families. Every year, the shelter estimates, it turns away 500 people, including 110 children, because of a lack of space, Graff said.

It took at least three years to find available property that met the shelter's needs. It had to be accessible to buses, health care and opportunities for employment, Graff said.

The property is made up of six lots: four in Annapolis and two in a designated development area in Parole, just over the city line. The shelter building will be on the Annapolis side, Graff said. The shelter expects to close on the property May 1. The goal is to complete construction by the end of 2009, she said.

But the project faces opposition, Graff said. Neighboring businesses have complained that the shelter's placement in a commercial area would bring down property values.

"We could build in a cemetery and there would be opposition," she said.

So far, the Katherine Randolph White Building Fund has collected $26,000, Graff said. The fund was started by her minister and friend, the Rev. Phebe McPherson of Epiphany Church in Odenton, several months after White's murder.

White, 32, was strangled June 4 by a man she had befriended during rehabilitation for alcohol abuse. On March 14, an Anne Arundel County circuit judge sentenced Christopher Perkins O'Brien, 34, to 18 months in prison and 18 months of home detention. White had allowed O'Brien to stay in her home after their release two days apart from Hope House.

White's concern for the homeless was the reason her family wanted to work with McPherson and the Light House Shelter. As a teenager, she asked to have her Christmas gifts donated to a homeless shelter, said her brother, T.R. Randolph.

Her mother, Rebecca Randolph, recalled an incident shortly after White left rehab in May, when the two were driving through Annapolis. White asked her mother to pull over near a group of homeless people so that she could give them money.

"My response was, `Kate, I don't know,'" Randolph recalled. "She turned to me and said, `Mom, do you think those people would choose to be homeless?' "

Randolph said that White was a different person after her last stint in rehab at Hope House. She was softer and more dear, Randolph said.

"When she left Hope House, she said to me, `I want to live the rest of my life being kind to other people,' " Randolph said. "She was just a person with enormous compassion for people in need."

Her family said that they want her giving attitude to inspire others.

"After her murder, we thought, what better thing than to provide a day room at the new Lighthouse Shelter?" McPherson said.

"We don't want to focus on her death," T.R. Randolph added. "We want to concentrate on the living."

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