Howard County is seeking $485,000 in federal grants to hel pay for six projects, including a shelter for homeless women and children, and a halfway house for pregnant women.
At the top of the list is a $140,000 request for renovating a county-owned building on Fels Lane in Ellicott City. The shelter would be operated by Grassroots, a nonprofit agency that runs a crisis hot line and homeless shelter in Columbia.
Grassroots had planned to seek grant money to open a separate men's homeless shelter. But when the Ellicott City house became available, agency officials decided to move the women and children in the 12-bed Columbia transitional shelter to the Ellicott City house and open the men's shelter at the Columbia location.
"This way we weren't faced with trying to persuade some community with trying to accept a men's shelter," said Grassroots Director Andrea Ingram.
Ms. Ingram said the Ellicott City location is "perfect" because it is within walking distance of the county office complex, the Department of Social Services and the Health Department.
In addition, children living at the shelter can participate in activities at the Roger Carter Neighborhood Center. The four-bedroom home would house up to 14 clients.
Ms. Ingram has been working for several years to establish a separate men's shelter.
"It's difficult to maintain a safe and harmonious environment for all clients when you have such a mixture sharing fairly small living quarters," she said.
"Different populations have different needs, and it's hard to solve the obstacles to independent living when so much energy has to go into coping with a stressful environment," Ms. Ingram said.
The county also hopes to get a $150,000 community development block grant to establish a halfway house for pregnant women. It would be operated by Christian Services of Howard County Inc., a 29-year-old alliance of 33 county churches that runs an Ellicott City thrift shop.
The home would serve "women in a crisis pregnancy," said Thelma Lyman, Christian Services' president. Residents of the home could include teen-agers, women who have left abusive husbands and homeless women.
The group hasn't found a house that could be renovated, Ms. Lyman said. Women in the home, which could house four clients at a time, would receive prenatal care, parenting classes and help in planning their lives when they leave the home, she said.
"We just know there's a great need for a place like this for women that do not have the support system they need in this situation," Ms. Lyman said.
Ms. Ingram agreed with that assessment. During the winter, she said, seven babies were born to women living at Grassroots' Columbia shelter.
Ms. Ingram said the only specialized facility she knows of for homeless pregnant women is in Prince George's County.
County housing officials have applied for for a $25,000 block grant to help pay for construction of 12 to 18 additional units of housing at Hilltop, a 94-unit county-owned low income housing complex in Ellicott City. The money would be used for preliminary engineering and architectural studies.
For the second year, the county housing office is seeking $50,000 for repair work on the homes of elderly and disabled people. The county has promised to contribute $20,000 to the program. Last year, the county received a $60,000 grant for the project and contributed $20,000.
The county office of human rights is seeking a $20,000 grant to develop projects promoting fair housing.
The county public works office is applying for a $100,000 grant to rebuild Hicks Road and Franklin Drive in the Villa Heights community in Jessup. The total cost of repairs is estimated at $500,000.
Statewide, $4,682,200 in grant money is available, said Leonard Vaughan, county housing director.
The state's Community Development Administration operates the block grant program and will award grants based on a review of applications, which are due Friday. Mr. Vaughan said he expects the grant awards to be announced in the fall.
It is unlikely that all six projects will be funded, he said. For example, the county applied for three grants last year and received one, $60,000 to do repair work on the homes of elderly and disabled people.