Plans for Carroll County’s new and improved family shelter continued to move forward last week as county officials prepared to apply for a $1.5 million state grant to be used for construction of the new location at 115 Stoner Ave., in Westminster.
The county’s Department of Citizen Services and Grants Office received approval Thursday from the Board of Carroll County Commissioners to submit an application to the fiscal 2024 Maryland Shelter and Transitional Housing Facilities Program. It provides grants to improve or create transitional housing and emergency shelters to reduce homelessness in the state.
The county’s current family shelter, at 10 Distillery Drive in Westminster, is on the top floor of a public social services building. The shelter, which has 23 beds and is operated year-round, has operated in different forms for about 30 years.
“Its current location is not an appropriate location as far as the safety that we want to see for our most vulnerable in the community, which includes our most at-risk families and children,” Celene Steckel, director of the Department of Citizen Services, said during a meeting with commissioners Thursday.
Commissioner Stephen Wantz, who represented District 1 until this week, said Thursday the move to the new facility was a good idea.
“I toured the facility over there several times, and it was definitely time to look for something else, because public safety-wise it just was not the best fit up there. I think it’s a great idea.”
In January 2021, the commissioners approved the purchase of the Penn-Mar Organization building, at 115 Stoner Ave., in Westminster for $1.3 million. The Penn-Mar building is 16,264 square feet and sits on a 2.96-acre lot. Steckel estimated that between 8,000 and 9,000 square feet could be used for the family shelter. The county’s current family shelter is about 6,000 square feet.
“We own the building now, but there are different steps that we have to take to make this process complete,” Steckel said.
The total cost of the new family center project is estimated to be $5,510,500, according to county documents.
Steckel told commissioners that during the last four years, the shelter had served 306 adults and 243 children.
“The shelter is typically at capacity with a waiting list,” Steckel said. “So, we wanted to find a more child-friendly space to have a shelter for these children and families.”
Steckel said the county would rely on several grants to fund renovations. She expects the Maryland Shelter and Transitional Housing Facilities Program grant to fund up to 75% of construction expenses.