Seven houses the county owns near the Westminster airport should be moved and renovated into transitional apartments for the homeless or others in dire need of housing, the county's citizen services director told the county commissioners yesterday.
Carroll now has no transitional housing to accommodate those who have exhausted their stays at homeless shelters or to house the recently unemployed, displaced women with children and others who need time and support services to become self-sufficient again.
"There's a tremendous need for it," said Jolene G. Sullivan, Department of Citizen Services director.
The county bought the houses -- five along Route 97 and two on Pinch Valley Road -- because it needed land for the Carroll County Regional Airport/Jack B. Poage Field expansion project. The houses probably will be demolished if they are not moved to a vacant lot and used as transitional housing, said Sullivan.
"The houses are in really good shape and it's not too far to move to relocate them," she said. "It seemed a shame that they'd be destroyed. It makes sense to take the homes and refurbish them."
The seven houses, which could be divided into about 15 apartments, could form a "hamlet" on a vacant lot on Kriders Church Road, off Route 97 just south of the airport, said Sullivan. The houses on Route 97 would have to be moved back about 1,500 feet, she said.
Sullivan estimates it would cost about $680,000 to buy the land, move the houses and renovate them. The county could apply for a grant to finance the project through a state transitional housing program, she said. The county also could seek money through federal programs to operate the facilities for up to five years, she said.
"There's sufficient money there," said Sullivan, whose aim is to finance the project without any county money. "It will be competitive, but I think the project is creative enough."
Most of the homeowners whose property was purchased have relocated at the county's expense.
Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy said transitional housing is needed, but he expressed concern about the cost of the project and whether grants could cover it.
Transitional housing typically includes such services as transportation, day care, job and life skills training or counseling. Tenants would pay rent and probably would be allowed to stay for two years or so. Human Services Programs of Carroll County Inc., which operates four homeless shelters and would administer the transitional housing, enforces a 12-week limit at the shelters.
"Twelve weeks may seem like a long time, but there's not much follow-up or support," said Sylvia Canon, HSP director. "That's what we're trying to do here."
HSP has 56 shelter beds. About 47 beds were occupied yesterday. The men's shelter has a waiting list of five. Two family shelters, which can house seven families, might have to close June 12 because the state denied a grant.
Anticipating that the public might have concerns about transitional housing, Sullivan has arranged a "design exposition" May 27-29 in which residents or government officials could come to the site to evaluate the plan and offer suggestions.