Homelessness board chooses programs to share $30,000

Under an agreement announced yesterday, three Howard County human services agencies would share $30,000 in unspent county grant money to pay for programs aimed at helping the homeless and preventing homelessness.

The Howard County Board on Homelessness recommended spending $19,000 for services such as eviction prevention and first month's rent assistance, both of which are administered through the county's Community Action Council, a private nonprofit agency based in Columbia.


Board members also proposed spending $11,000 for a transition program that would help homeless people while they seek employment.

The program would be administered through Careerscope, a nonprofit organization, and Project Meet, a Howard Community College program.


"I know that the people living in our shelters need these services," said Stephanie Sites, executive director of the Domestic Violence Center of Howard County, which housed 379 clients last year in its five shelters.

The board, which includes representatives from human services agencies throughout the county, makes recommendations to the County Council and other organizations about ways to serve the county's homeless.

The $30,000 was part of $60,000 in undesignated Grant-in-Aid money that County Executive Charles I. Ecker made available in January to human services agencies in the fiscal year 1995 budget, which began July 1.

At their July 6 meeting, board members proposed spending the other $30,000 to help fund a program for single, homeless men.

Officials of a variety of agencies voiced their frustration with a tight budget year as they laid out proposals to share in the money.

"All over the county our agencies need money," said Andrea Ingram, director of Grassroots, one of the county's primary homeless shelters.

Ms. Ingram defended Grassroots' proposed shelter for homeless, single men, which has been criticized by some social service officials as a program that would promote "dependency."

"I detest a system where you create an environment for people to become lazy," said Dorothy Moore, executive director of the Community Action Council. "Give them some jobs."


Ms. Moore said counseling and training are paramount to effectively delivering services to those in need.

Ms. Ingram countered by saying that Grassroots will provide such services.

Ms. Moore had requested the entire $30,000, but the board awarded just $19,000 because CAC filed the proposal past the deadline.

The CAC's Careerscope and Project Meet programs would help the agencies offer many of the support groups that the agencies seek, such as self-esteem workshops, job/work experience development and job mentoring, Ms. Moore said.

"We have serious problems with providing benefits and not providing counseling," Ms. Moore said. "We need anything that could be done to prevent homelessness."