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Funding for Westminster shelter expires Friday


Human services providers are scrambling to keep the county's emergency overnight shelter in Westminster from closing on Friday, when its funding is to run out.

Officials at Human Services Programs Inc., the nonprofit agency that operates the shelter, are waiting to hear whether they have been awarded a federal grant that would enable them to keep the shelter open.

But the immediate issue is how to provide services to the homeless if the grant is not approved.

"We're trying not to close it, but we haven't come up with an alternative plan yet," said Sylvia Canon, director of Human Services Programs.

The county has funded the operation of the center for the past year but has allocated a minimal amount for fiscal 1996, which begins July 1, said Lynda Gainor, deputy director.

The overnight shelter, at 540 Washington Road, is the former site of Shoemaker House, the county's residential center for treating addictions.

Human Services Programs took over the operation of the shelter in November after Shoemaker House moved to a building at the Springfield Hospital Center in Sykesville.

Shoemaker House offered shelter services only during the winter, but Human Services Programs has elected to keep the shelter open all year.

"It needs to be open year-round," Ms. Canon said.

The shelter serves an average of 15 people each night, providing each with a cot, hot drinks and soup, and a place to take a shower and wash clothes.

"It's the humane thing to do -- give people a safe place to sleep," Ms. Canon said.

continue operating the shelter and expand its services, Human Services Programs applied for a $1,047,156 grant from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The state Department of Human Resources submitted the application on behalf of Human Services Programs and other social service agencies throughout the state.

In total, the agencies have applied for $23 million for homeless services, said Harriet Goldman, director of homeless services with the state Department of Human Resources.

Human Services Programs' plans to use part of the money to build a new emergency shelter if its portion of the grant is approved, Ms. Canon said.

The shelter may not be able to remain at Shoemaker House because Carroll County General Hospital is negotiating with the county to buy the building.

Human Services Programs officials said the people who use the emergency shelter -- mainly people with substance abuse problems or mental illness -- aren't able to meet the requirements of the other shelters the agency runs.

Residents in those programs may be expected to work, go to school or enter drug treatment programs.

There are "no expectations" at the emergency shelter, said Ms. Gainor. "The only way you can get put out is to have a physical confrontation with someone or by drinking or using substances inside the building."

The staff at Human Services Programs informs the shelter residents of other services they may qualify for, but they can't force anyone to accept help.

"There's all kinds of ways they could be helped, but they have to want to change," Ms. Gainor said.

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