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Housing plan wins praise but no promises from Rogers 15 units are proposed for families who have left homeless shelters


WESTMINSTER -- County officials succeeded in impressing state Housing Secretary Jacqueline Rogers with their proposal to build 15 transitional housing units near the Westminster airport.

"I think it is excellent," said Rogers after seeing a video, listening to a briefing and touring the site. "It is wonderful to take an existing resource and preserve it."

Her enthusiasm bolstered hopes that the state will grant the $680,000 requested to build the county's first transitional housing units.

Designed to house people who have left homeless shelters, transitional housing allows them additional time to organize their affairs and save enough money to find their own housing.

"I have never seen anything quite like it," said Rogers after touring the site. "It is an interesting idea. I have never seen anyone do a cluster of single-family dwellings. I think it is neat."

Jolene G. Sullivan, head of the county's Department of Citizen Services, said 12 weeks is the maximum stay for homeless individuals and families in county shelters. But people often need more time to find jobs and transportation and begin accumulating money for security deposits and rent.

Since last September, officials of Citizen Services and members of Human Services Program Inc., the non-profit agency that runs the county's homeless shelters, have been trying to develop a transitional housing plan.

The proposed "hamlet," as housing officials call it, is on a 7-acre parcel bounded by Littlestown Pike, Krider's Church Road, the Carroll County Association of Retarded Citizens' sheltered workshop and Feeser's Market. The plan would create 15 units to house families.

The county purchased the houses as part of the expansion of the Carroll County Regional Airport. Federal Aviation ( Administration rules require that the houses, in the so-called restricted zone, be destroyed or moved.

County officials decided to see whether they could move the houses and use them for their transitional program.

J. Christopher Batten, a Westminster landscape architect, developed a site plan that clustered the five houses around a common area and called for preserving a maximum amount of green space and existing trees.

One of the houses would be converted into a community center, with offices and classrooms for the residents.

Rogers seemed impressed that residents will be close to job opportunities at the Airport Business Park, markets, medical and day-care facilities and other services.

She also was glad to hear that residents will be asked to participate in community service programs.

"The governor would be very pleased. He likes to see people benefiting from generosity giving something back," said Rogers.

Asked whether the grant will be supported, Rogers declined to be pinned down.

"I don't want to pre-empt my staff," she said. "I am sure it is eligible for financing. A year ago, I asked them [Carroll officials] to look at transitional housing, and now it looks like the shoe is back on our foot."

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