ANNAPOLIS — Carroll advocates for the elderly, infirm, low-income families struggling to keep their housing and the homeless urged county legislatorsto consider basic human needs before voting on budget cuts.
"It'snot OK to say that state cuts can be made up by contributions from volunteers, families, churches, non-profits, corporations and local government," Westminster housing supervisor Karen Blandford told Del. Donald B. Elliott, R-Carroll, Howard.
"We can't take any more cuts, especially at a time when needs aregrowing, not just for shelters, but for everything."
The Carroll group that lobbied legislators here Wednesday also included Sharon Baker, Bureau of Aging client services supervisor; Elaine Bostic, rental property manager for Townhouse Associates of Westminster; a Carrollman, who told how he recently lost his construction job and became homeless; and Michelle Mattison, a social worker who assists the homeless mentally ill.
The day was organized by state advocacy groups for the homeless and low-income housing. The Carroll advocates met in small groups or individually with five of the six delegation members.
The advocates said many human service needs are interrelated, andwhen one area is cut, such as addictions treatment, it increases burdens on other areas, such as homeless shelters.
State cuts alreadyhave reduced or eliminated assistance for the elderly, alcohol and drug abusers, welfare recipients and those in danger of being evicted.A sweeping welfare reform program has been proposed.
"Human services can't be cut any more," said Baker.
But two members of the Carroll delegation said social programs might be cut more. Del. Richard N. Dixon, D-Carroll, and Sen. Charles H. Smelser, D-Carroll, Frederick, Howard, who serve on budget committees, said all appropriations should be open to deliberations.
The advocates urged the legislatorsto:
* Avoid welfare reforms they consider "punitive," but work onsystem changes. Proposed reforms would eliminate aid to many disabled adults and cut welfare grants to families until parents prove theirchildren attend school and receive regular health care, and that they pay rent on time.
* Retain current housing programs. Among thoseare the Rental Allowance Program, designed to prevents homelessness;and Senior Assisted Housing, which subsidizes group living for the elderly who need help with essential activities.
Only about 40 of the 124 Carroll families on RAP's waiting list are expected to receiveassistance this year. At the same time, occupancy at county sheltersis at an all-time high.
* Consult and work with county workers onthe front lines serving the needy populations before making decisions.
* Take responsibility to do "whatever it takes to assure that Carroll citizens won't die, and will be able to live in dignity."
The advocates gave legislators a letter from a Taneytown woman who sought assistance from a Carroll human services agency to escape an abusive husband and find a new living situation with her children.
"Unless you're in the shoes of the people who actually need the kind of help I'm receiving, you don't know the half of it," reads the letter."Please don't take away what so many of us need."
The advocates said responses from the legislators generally didn't instill confidence. Several legislators expressed sympathy, but said they didn't have much influence because they don't serve on "money" committees.
"I can only convey to my colleagues my feelings about these needs," saidDel. Donald B. Elliott, R-Carroll, Howard, who asked the visitors tosubmit proposed program changes in writing.