Those in need of shelter during extreme weather events that coincide with government holidays will have a new option, beginning this winter.
The Carroll County Board of Commissioners voted on Thursday to approve the opening of a warming and cooling center at the Westminster Senior and Community Center on holidays when county facilities such as libraries are closed.
The request to open the center came from Citizen Services, Human Services Programs and the Department of Social Services.
"We're looking at trying to fill a need that had been expressed in the community," HSP's Angela Gustus told the board. The senior center site, with its proximity to the Cold Weather Shelter, offers a perfect location to offer a place to stay on holidays, she said.
Gustus said the need for a holiday resource was highlighted on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January last year, when extreme cold coincided with the closure of libraries and other county centers normally used as daytime shelter locations.
"We have a population that needs it," county Health Officer Ed Singer said. "We can't just have no place for people to go on days that are that cold. We're going to wind up with people unnecessarily dying."
Frank Valenti, Department of Social Services director, said his staff will help operate the holiday shelter, which will operate as needed from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m during winter months and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in summer months.
"It's a win-win," he said, noting that the arrangement will allow his department to assist the county's human service providers as well as connect those in need to more services.
In the future, Gustus said, the county could decide to expand shelters into other parts of the county if there is a need.
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