Harford County has a Good Samaritan in J. William McNally, a retired Edgewood minister who wants to build a boarding house and low-income housing for homeless people trying to pull their lives together. But he needs help from County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann so that work can begin by this spring, as he has planned.
The boarding house, Second Step, is to be located across the street from Forward Step Inc., a shelter for homeless and abused women on Old Edgewood Road that Mr. McNally also operates. About 16 residents would live at Second Step, envisioned as a transitional residence allowing homeless people who have been through Forward Step or similar programs to make the next move toward independence. Mr. McNally also wants to build 11 low-income homes on land already owned by the shelter and rent them to graduates of the program.
These are ambitious plans indeed, especially in a county which, up to now, has had only two emergency shelters to meet the needs of a growing population of homeless people. One major hurdle facing the project is whether local zoning ordinances will permit construction of the shelter in a business district. County planning and zoning director William G. Carroll has been reviewing the Second Step proposal since early December at Ms. Rehrmann's request but has still not issued a decision.
Mr. McNally's step-by-step approach to helping homeless people regain self-sufficiency and self-respect deserves the support of county officials, who can assist by expediting resolution of various zoning questions. The sooner these issues are settled, the sooner work can proceed on a project that holds great promise to help meet the needs of homeless people in Harford County.