Shelter funds in jeopardy


Some Baltimore-area homeless shelters may have to close and others will lose staff if a threatened cut in their federal funding is approved by Congress, a local advocacy group predicted yesterday.

The House of Representatives has already approved cutting funds for emergency shelter grants by 77 percent nationwide, and the Senate Appropriations Committee endorsed the measure last week. A vote by the full Senate is expected within days.

Proponents say the cuts are meant to free money for counseling, drug treatment and other programs aimed at preventing homelessness. In Baltimore, members of Action for the Homeless said yesterday that they supported that goal -- but that the basic need for shelter must be met first.

"You can't just abandon the emergency shelters," said Norma Pinette, executive director of Action for the Homeless. "We need more beds, not less."

Shelters across Maryland currently receive more than $1 million from the federal program, with the bulk of the money going to shelters in Baltimore.

Ms. Pinette said many shelters rely on private contributions for more than half their budgets, and state and local funds help to pay the bills as well. Still, the loss of the federal money would be "devastating," she said. She estimated that about 50 of Baltimore's 1,300 shelter beds could be lost.

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