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Cuts threaten homeless families shelter Schaefer rejects request for $32,000 grant


WESTMINSTER -- Carroll County may lose one of its two shelters for homeless families if it cannot get federal funding restored, according to officials who work with the homeless.

On Wednesday, they were notified that Gov. William Donald Schaefer rejected their request for a $32,000 Emergency Services grant that enables them to operate an apartment where homeless families can be sheltered.

"This is very unfair," said Karen Blandford, the chairman of the Human Services Program, which runs the county's homeless shelters. "We operate on a shoestring budget and we can stretch small amounts of money very far, but we can't do miracles."

Without this grant, she said, the Human Services Program will not be able to retain a part-time case manager and pay for the apartment's gas, electricity and telephone service.

The shelter will probably close on June 12, and HSP fears it may lose the shelter altogether because it won't be able to continue to pay the mortgage on it.

But at the moment, losing the case manager for homeless families is what worries HSP the most.

"Without a case manager to do the management and move the cases along, there's no point in having a shelter," said Lynda Gainor, HSP's deputy director. She also said the shelter will not remain open if utility bills cannot be paid.

Case managers help homeless families and individuals organize their lives and get back on their feet. They help them in finding work, locating affordable housing and arranging transportation.

There is some money left in this year's budget to keep the shelter open a few more weeks, but if no money is forthcoming, HSP said it will shut down the shelter on June 12.

For the past three years, HSP has been able to keep homeless families together because the agency has two facilities to house them. Before that, homeless families were broken up. Men were sent to shelters for men; women and children were sent to women's shelters.

"Splitting up families only adds stress to an already stressful situation," said Kathryn Bitzer, the HSP's shelter coordinator and case manager for the men's shelter.

Carroll County had been receiving this Emergency Services grant for a number of years and expected to receive it again this year.

Although the money comes from the federal government, the state Department of Housing and Community Services allocates the funds.

Blandford said the governor's office told her that $242,000 was available this year and 22 counties submitted applications for grants totaling $610,000.

She was told the advisory board recommended that HSP be awarded a $26,000 grant, but when that recommendation was forwarded to the governor for review, he rejected it.

Several people who work with the homeless suspect that Schaefer is getting even with legislative delegations that did not vote with him during the past General Assembly session.

The governor's office denies that politics had anything to do with the decisions, pointing out that the governor approved grants to counties whose delegations were not supportive during the session.

That explanation did not satisfy state Sen. Larry E. Haines, R-Carroll and Baltimore counties, who said Friday he had asked the governor's office for a more formal response that would detail the criteria used in approving the grant requests.

"I'm trying to determine whether it was based on need for each jurisdiction or whether it was a political move by the governor," he said.

He also has called Rep. Beverly B. Byron, D-6th, for help, since the grant is federal pass-through money.

State housing department officials who handle this program could not be reached late Friday.

Meanwhile, HSP has stopped placing families in the shelter because officials don't want to have to throw them out on the street if the shelter has to close.

Blandford said that $32,000 doesn't sound like a lot, but for Carroll County's homeless programs it is a key portion of the funding.

"We have four basic sources of funding -- county, city and state grants, as well as private donations. Those are the four pillars of our program. If one of those pillars is removed, the whole house of cards comes tumbling down," Blandford said.

If the program had nine or 10 funding sources, she said, "we could live with the removal of one of those."

Gainor said the HSP staff hopes there will be some way to tTC restore the funds.

"This is a real emergency," Blandford said. "There are only a few weeks until we shut down. So far we haven't come up with other alternatives."

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