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Partnership collecting donations to help Carroll County homeless community during pandemic

The Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, the county Department of Citizen Services and Human Services Programs of Carroll County Inc. are partnering to prepare and distribute field kits to the local homeless community.

Even though his office works to help the homeless community throughout the year, according to Carroll County Sheriff Jim DeWees, they felt the need to help more due to the ongoing pandemic of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

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“We know they’re an at-risk population to not only contracting COVID-19, but potentially spreading it,” DeWees said. “So it’s a worthy cause to go out and make sure they have the supplies that they need so that they can stay healthy and that they don’t spread the virus.”

According to DeWees, the Sheriff’s Office has a deputy, Master Deputy Mike McMillian, assigned to be something of a liaison to the homeless community of Carroll County who makes contact with them to see what they need and has earned their trust.

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“You want somebody familiar, so having an individual that’s familiar with the population and have the ability to communicate with them and get them the information that they need is extremely important,” DeWees said.

According to Jennifer Graybill, executive director of shelter and housing with Human Services Programs, there about 94 homeless people in Carroll County. About eight are in hotels, about 44 in Human Services Programs shelters, about 37 on the street, and five who choose to stay to themselves and the organization doesn’t have regular communication with.

For the field kits, the Sheriff’s Office isn’t asking for donations of items that will go in them, but rather monetary donations so they can focus on getting the materials needed by the homeless community based on recommendations from Human Services Programs.

“We can go out and purchase the specific items that are needed, and we know what items they need specifically in order to make sure their hygiene is good and that their health is good — from shampoo to soap, to masks, gloves, things that they need,” DeWees said.

The Sheriff’s Office is also working with the Carroll Community Foundation to collect donations for the field kids. The Carroll Community Foundation created a page at www.carrollcommunityfoundation.org where people can donate.

Some of the items needed for the field kits are antibacterial soap, nonperishable foods such as tuna or granola bars, and water.

“The things that we take for granted every day are what we bring to them every week,” Graybill said. “What we’re able to do because we’re going out there so often is we essentially ask them what they need.”

Human Services Programs has begun receiving donations of masks from members of the community that make them outside of the organization’s partnership with the Sheriff’s Office.

The struggles of the homeless community dealing with the uncertainty of the pandemic doesn’t differ compared to the rest of Carroll County residents, Graybill said.

“In the beginning, we were seeing so many people in our encampments really asking about information, wanted to know more, wanting to know how to keep themselves safe, how to keep their families safe, basic facts about what COVID-19 was and asking for information continues to be a source of concern,” she said.

There isn’t currently a date determined for distributing the field kids, as donations are still being gathered for the kits, DeWees said.

According to Graybill, Human Services Programs has previously worked with the Sheriff’s Office and is grateful for the partnership.

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“I just want to express our incredible gratitude for the Sheriff’s [Office],” she said. “They’re a great partner to have, so we’re very lucky."

Celene Steckel, director of Citizen Services, did not respond to requests for comment.

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