The Carroll County Cold Weather Shelter, located at 127 Stoner Ave. in Westminster and operated by Human Services Programs of Carroll County Inc., will be operating under new hours when it opens for the season Thursday, Nov. 15.
The shelter will continue to open at 7 p.m. each night — people can begin lining up at 6:45 p.m. — but the shelter will now stay open until 8 a.m. each morning, instead of closing its doors at 7 a.m., according to an HSP media release.
“After discussions with the county and our local Circle of Caring Homelessness Board, we recognized there were very few places for folks to go after leaving our cold weather shelter at 7 a.m.,” HSP acting Executive Director Scott Yard is quoted as having said in the release. “Many of the local warming centers and other community partners are not open until later in the morning between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m.”
The cold weather shelter is not a 24-hour operation, but is designed to keep people from freezing to death overnight in winter weather, according to information provided by HSP Director of Marketing and Outreach Matthew Peregoy, and is normally in operation from Nov. 15 to March 31.
In late 2016, however, an early cold snap forced the shelter to open early in November, according to the information he provided, while late cold weather kept the shelter open until April 3, and then forced it open again on the night of April 7.
The shelter served 184 unique individuals in the 2016-2017 season, with an average of 34 guests per night, according to Peregoy, and one outlier night in January when the shelter housed 47 people.
The shelter was only designed to handle 25 people at night, and in the event of an overflow, the shelter will coordinate with the Westminster Rescue Mission and the Westminster Senior and Community Center for additional space, according to the release.
More than 300 volunteers from more than a dozen organizations and faith groups helped support the cold weather shelter last year, and that support, along with stable funding, has allowed the shelter to expand its hours this year, according to Yard.
“Every night a meal is served that is brought in from a civic service or faith-based service,” he said in an interview. “We use hundreds of volunteers on top of our overnight and cold weather staff.”
Those interested in volunteering to help the cold weather shelter, or groups interested in supplying meals should contact Clare Kazyak at email@example.com to learn more.
In January, HSP was awarded a $158,000 grant by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, which the nonprofit used to hire a full-time intake manager who could not only help get homeless people into the cold weather shelter or one of the four other shelters HSP administers for Carroll County, but can also provide case management and access to services.
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“There have been a lot of changes to catch people faster, to have no wrong door, to immediately assess people and get them into services faster,” Yard said. “A lot of this is the move one strategy, getting people work-ready for employers to give people jobs, find landlords who understand people may not have had a home for the past year because they were homeless.”