Shelter closure looming State rejects aid plea for homeless families


WESTMINSTER -- Candace Reynolds has had plenty of problems in her short life, but if Carroll County's homeless shelter for families shuts down, her problems will multiply.

"If they shut this place down, I don't have any place to live," she said yesterday. "I am going to lose a job and place to live. I am going to be out on the street again."

Last October, Reynolds, 24, left her home in Texas and came to Maryland looking for her 5-year-old daughter, who had been taken from her by her former foster mother.

"For three years, I had no idea where she was, but then I found out where she was," Reynolds said. "I hitchhiked 1,600 miles to find her. If I lose the shelter, they are going to take her away from me because they won't let her live on the street with me."

The Human Services Program, the manager of the county's homeless shelter, is facing a dilemma.

The private organization had asked the state for $32,000 to keep the homeless shelter for families operating for another year, but Gov. William Donald Schaefer turned down the grant.

Without the money, HSP said it will be forced to shut down the shelter on June 12, something it doesn't want to do.

"The needs far exceed the resources available to state," said Michael V. Seipp, community assistance director of the state Department of Housing and Community Development. "Carroll County has a record of receiving money in previous years, and the state decided to spend it elsewhere."

He said there was only $230,000 to be distributed statewide, and the selection process was "painful," considering the needs throughout the state.

"There were other counties whose needs were greater,"Seipp said.

HSP said its proposal was highly ranked, and officials there believe they can persuade state or county officials to find the $32,000 they need to keep the facility open.

"We want to do everything we can possibly do to maintain that facility," said Sylvia Canon, HSP's director. "We have worked long and hard to get it where it is. It would be tragic to have to shut it down now."

She said the organization could move money out of some of its other programs and into the shelter, but there isn't enough to keep the shelter operating for the rest of the year.

Two weeks ago, HSP stopped sending families to the shelter because officials were uncertain that it would be open beyond June 12.

However, last week, Kathryn Bitzer, HSP's shelter coordinator, began sending families to the shelter again because "they don't have anywhere to go."

She said the families are aware that they may be back on the street if the shelter closes.

Uncertainty about the shelter's future makes Candace Reynolds very uncomfortable.

Since November, she said, she has been acting as the resident manager for the family shelter in exchange for staying there.

"I make sure the place is kept clean, help the other families follow the rules, and I keep up the referral book," Reynolds said.

She said she has been unable to find a job because she doesn't have a car.

"If I am out on the street, then my daughter will be up for grabs," Reynolds said.

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