“It’s a bit musty,” Scott Yard, acting executive director of Human Services Programs of Carroll County Inc., said as he turned the keys in the door of 12 Carroll St., Westminster, on Wednesday afternoon. “It smells like an old building.”
None of the people touring the currently empty building seemed to mind the must given the cold, whipping wind outside, which forced a groundbreaking ceremony originally scheduled for outside into Grace Lutheran Church on the other side of the road. HSP had purchased the building in May 2017, for just less than $400,000, Yard said, with the intention of turning it into a new home for many of HSP’s programs, “The Opportunity Center.”
Prior to the tour, members of the community had gathered in the church to mark the beginning of the renovation efforts, what is expected to be a $2.5 million capital campaign.
“We’ve already raised around $900,000, Yard said. “Our plan is we are beginning construction in February.”
Though HSP initially managed shelter services — the nonprofit was launched 31 years ago in December, Board President Robert Miller noted Wednesday — it has now grown to 18 programs, including annual tax preparation, job training and the Second Chances Free Store, while still managing the cold weather and other shelters.
Those services reach 10,000 people in Carroll each year, Yard noted, and the new home weatherization program is slated to start soon, but with programs like Second Chances operating out of a cramped Green Street facility, HSP needed more space.
“What we do is we provide hope, change and opportunity,” Yard told those gathered at the ceremony, but “we can only offer so much hope, change and opportunity in 1,600 square feet.”
The 12 Carroll Street building will provide that space, with more than 10,000 square feet. Though its Carroll Street front appears small, the structure actually consists of several buildings extending nearly a city block.
“It was actually built to house the Carroll County Times originally. I think it was 1953 when the first building was built,” project Architect Dean Camlin said in an interview. “There was another addition added that you can see if you look at the floor plan. It’s at an angle, so it follows Winter Street.”
Inside, the building is currently a confusing maze of narrow corridors and rooms, Camlin said, due in part to non-permitted construction by a previous tenant.
“There was a whole wooden structure built inside the metal building that includes a second floor that was not done with a permit,” he said. “It’s all going to be torn out.”
On the tour, Yard and Jennifer Graybill, HSP director of opportunity programs, wove their way from the entry through a narrow hallway, past a bathroom barely wider than a coat closet and into a large room with a corner dedicated to electrical panels. Opening up the labyrinthine space fits their plans perfectly, according to Graybill.
“Essentially the whole building will be open, which was our concept, because we want to be inviting, welcoming, safe, secure,” she said. “Especially with so many of our people who come out of incarceration, the more open space the better.”
There will be some divisions, including two job training rooms taking up a bit more than 500 square feet on their own, Graybill said, while the relocated Second Chances Free Store will enjoy spacious new digs at the front of the building.
“Second Chances in total is going to be about 1,000 square feet,” she said. “Currently it’s about 500.”
There will be enough space that Graybill said HSP plan to invite in other community programs, such as the Alcoholics Anonymous meetings currently hosted by the Carroll County Health Department, and to provide more active shelter for homeless people during snowy days.
“When we close down or the weather is not so great, we’re able to not just put our homeless folks in a room, but to engage them in meaningful activity,” she said. “Not just a warm place to go, but a warm place to learn.”
The capital campaign is being fueled in part by a $700,000 Community Development Block Grant from the state of Maryland, which is facilitated by the City of Westminster. That was a role that Westminster Common Council President Robert Wack told people at the groundbreaking ceremony the city was pleased to serve in, noting it was a major investment for the community.
“Sometimes people don’t think of human services as economic development, but people are the most important part of our economy and when we’re investing in people, were investing in the economy,” Wack said. “This is really important work.”
That block grant also comes with state requirements, Yard noted, which means the project is really happening — Maryland wants to see progress reports.
“With the grant we’re subject to a very specific timeline through the state of Maryland,” he said. “We have to have X amount of dollars spent by a certain amount of time. We will have an official move-in date, which is in 2020.”
But first things first, HSP has to finalize the paperwork and get bids for the demolition work to being turning 12 Carroll Street into The Opportunity Center that’s been envisioned.