The uncertain future of Harundale Mall in Glen Burnie has nudged a 29-year-old youth counseling center in the complex to find a new home in Severna Park.

The Harundale Youth and Family Center announced yesterday that it will move to Park Plaza on Ritchie Highway within a few months.

The Rouse Co., which owns Harundale, has been reassigning personnel to other Rouse properties and has told tenants that they will have month-to-month leases beginning July 2. The company has been providing the Harundale site to the center rent-free since it started.

The Severna Park site also has been offered rent-free for at least 10 years to the private nonprofit center, one of the state's 21 youth services bureaus, which provides counseling to Anne Arundel families. The center's directors also are planning to rename the organization.

"It's kind of a bittersweet feeling because the Rouse Co. has been so wonderful to us all these years," said Adel O'Rourke, the center's executive director. "But at the same time, they have to move on, and so do we."

The center was started in 1968 to rein in the loitering youths at the complex. Bill Thomas, a mental health counselor who founded the center, said mall authorities approached him when youths started flooding the complex daily.

"It was packed every evening and on Saturdays with hundreds of hippies smoking dope and shoplifting," Thomas said. "It was like you had taken a few hundred kids from Woodstock, delivered them to the mall and dumped them there."

Mall authorities gave Thomas the 2,700-square-foot space to start the center, which gave youths a place to hang out and play board games or seek counseling. The center's focus shifted to counseling in the 1970s, when troubled youths started bringing their family problems to staff members.

Today, the center's eight counselors or therapists and support personnel informally counsel about 2,900 youths and families. They handle about 150 cases every year, charging $5 to $45 for consultation, and they have a four- month waiting list.

O'Rourke hopes the new site, almost twice the size of the current one, will provide room to expand.

"We're hoping to reduce the wait list as we grow," she said.

Pub Date: 4/29/97

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