The Board of Commissioners approved on Thursday the first step in the possible creation of a homeless shelter and service center for veterans in Westminster.
The board voted unanimously in favor of allowing the Veterans Advisory Council, or VAC, access to the U.S. Army Recruiting/Reserve Building, at 412 Malcolm Drive, to study the capabilities of the building.
The building, which is about 13,000 square feet, appears to be in satisfactory condition, said Frank Valenti, VAC chair, but would likely require asbestos and lead testing and possible removal.
When the assessment is complete, the VAC, with the help of the Community Foundation of Carroll County, would work to renovate and furnish the building for use.
The plan proposed by the VAC calls for the transformation of the building into the county's first permanent housing shelter for veterans. It would serve veterans of all ages by providing shelter, access to medical care, transportation, and connections to job training and educational help.
"Its not just housing veterans; it's providing services on-site to our vets," Valenti said.
"I think it would be a great asset to this county," said Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, who added that he fully supports the idea. "My only concern is there are quite a few things that we would have to do in order to make that happen."
The federal government handed the building over to the county over a year ago under an agreement that it be used for some kind of public safety purpose. County Attorney Timothy Burke said the county is in the process of talking to federal officials to get approval for use as a veterans' center.
The costs associated with the center would be borne by the VAC and its partners, Valenti said.
He said his council would work with other community resource providers to establish a nonprofit that would be responsible for running and maintaining the facility. That nonprofit would seek donations and other money to help with costs.
Valenti noted the county's reaffirmed commitment to ending homelessness of veterans. The commissioners began their Thursday open meeting by moving to publicly support the county's commitment to ending veteran homelessness in Carroll County.
"I cannot stress enough … this is a key to this county stepping up and ending vets homelessness," Valenti said.
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