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Carroll County nonprofit searching for new shelter space for those without homes during pandemic

A Carroll County nonprofit community action agency is searching for a place to create a temporary shelter for those without homes during the coronavirus pandemic.

Human Services Programs of Carroll County Inc. has about $243,000 to rent a facility — ideally, an open space spanning at least 5,000 square feet in Westminster — and to set up beds, buy supplies, and hire staff for an adult shelter that would be open from Oct. 1 to March 31.

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Scott Yard, executive director of HSP, said in an interview that the agency received funding via the county government, which applied on its behalf for a community development block grant from the Maryland Department of Community Housing and Development.

HSP currently operates two shelters, one for families and one for adults, but from the pandemic rose the need for another shelter. Yard said their adult shelter of 80 beds is about half full, and due to social distancing requirements and the desire to keep residents safe, he said HSP needs to open a temporary third shelter to house more adults.

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There are 17 people on the waiting list for the existing adult shelter, Yard said, and he expects another 10 once it gets colder. His hope is the temporary shelter will be able to house 50 people.

With October approaching, Yard is starting to get concerned after six weeks of searching for a place.

“We’re looking for that gem a landlord would love to rent out,” Yard said. “We just need big, open space that’s safe and up to code.”

He fears there is a stigma associated with homeless shelters, but assures prospective landlords that HSP is experienced with maintaining safe spaces. He’s hoping for a location in downtown Westminster so residents can be close to services. HSP offers case management services, financial education and employment training.

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Yard said their goal is to help people find stable housing so they do not have to remain in a shelter.

“If you have space and I haven’t found you yet, can you please reach out to us?” he said.

Concerns about the homeless population have grown since the state’s eviction ban ended, though President Donald Trump’s administration announced Tuesday a halt on evictions related to COVID-19 for some renters through December.

Yard said Wednesday he is less concerned about the possibility of people becoming newly homeless, in large part due to a rental assistance program the county recently established. However, he said there is still an existing homeless population in the county that he believes will benefit from a third shelter.

To help more people at risk of eviction, the Board of County Commissioners voted Aug. 13 to use $500,000 of its federal coronavirus relief funding for a rental assistance program. The funding will provide support for up to six months of rental arrears for eligible people who lost income because of COVID-19, according to a county news release. HSP is administering the program and began accepting applications Tuesday. Applications will be accepted through Nov. 20 or until funding is depleted.

Information about the program can be found on the county website under Housing & Community Development, at https://hspinc.org/ or by calling HSP at 410-857-2999. The office is at 10 Distillery Drive in Westminster, on the ground floor of the building. It is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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