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Meetings set to allay fears about shelter


The executive director of the Grassroots homeless shelter will meet with parents and teachers of Atholton High School next month in an effort to allay fears about an increase in single men at the shelter.

"We're going to work with them," said Atholton Principal Roger Plunkett, striking a more conciliatory tone than in his remarks about the shelter's plans before the Howard County Council on Monday night.

The 32-bed shelter, run by Grassroots Inc., is adjacent to the high school, along Freetown Road in Columbia's Hickory Ridge village.

On Monday, Mr. Plunkett told the council he was "very concerned" about more single homeless men living so close to the school.

He and other school officials said they feared that Grassroots would be switching from a family-oriented homeless shelter to an all-single-men shelter, he said.

But Andrea Ingram, executive director of the shelter, said Tuesday that women, families and children still will be a majority of the shelter occupants. The number of single men will increase from four to 12, Ms. Ingram said.

She said yesterday she has been invited to a Nov. 1 meeting of the Atholton PTSA and a Nov. 6 meeting of the Atholton faculty. Richard Dean, a member of the PTSA executive committee, assured her he would "not take a negative position" toward the shelter's plans, she said.

"I don't see the problem," Mr. Dean said yesterday. "Now that I have found out all I know, I support it. The shelter has been a good neighbor."

And Mr. Plunkett also said yesterday that if his PTSA and his staff supported the increase in the number of single men at the shelter, he also would support it.

Ms. Ingram said that even if school and parent leaders support the changes at Grassroots, she still expects to receive calls from individual parents.

"People react to a small piece of information and then fill in their worst fears," she said.

She added that it is important that the shelter be allowed to accept more single men because it is difficult to build new facilities for the homeless or the disabled.

"Howard County, in general, has resistance to groups of anybody living together," Ms. Ingram said.

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