Emergency overnight shelter is now open for Westminster's homeless

Westminster's homeless won't have to travel to Sykesville for overnight shelter this winter, as was originally planned by county officials.

Human Services Programs Inc., the nonprofit agency that operates three homeless shelters in the county, recently opened an emergency overnight shelter in the Westminster building that has served local homeless people in cold weather for the past three years.


Shoemaker House, the county's residential addictions-treatment center and the former occupant of the building at 540 Washington Road, moved in August to the grounds of Springfield Hospital Center in Sykesville.

Under a plan worked out last year by county health and human service officials, Shoemaker House took the county's homeless at its new location in Sykesville briefly this fall.


But that didn't work, mainly because of the distance from Sykesville to Westminster, where most of the shelter clients are from.

"It was very difficult to provide transportation to Sykesville," said Kathy Bitzer, assistant director of shelter and housing for Human Services Programs.

"Most of the folks who come to the shelter are street people [from Westminster] and they don't want to stay in Sykesville."

Larry Leitch, deputy county health officer, said many clients relied on the Westminster City police to take them to the shelter, which proved inconvenient.

"An addictions residential treatment facility is just not set up to be a cold weather shelter," Mr. Leitch said.

He said the emergency shelter arrangement had worked well when Shoemaker House was in Westminster and transportation wasn't as much of a problem.

Since Human Services Programs reopened the emergency shelter in Westminster Nov. 18, it has served 11 clients, Ms. Bitzer said.

Only one man sought shelter on the first night the shelter opened. But as the temperature dropped, the shelter began serving four or five clients a night, she said.


The emergency overnight shelter opens at 6:30 p.m., and clients must leave by 6:30 a.m.

The shelter provides cots; bedclothes; a shower; and hot coffee, tea and soups.