Baltimore group to take over county shelter


The operator of a transitional housing program and homeless shelter in Baltimore has been chosen to take over a Baltimore County shelter that has been criticized for its treatment of residents, a social services official said.

I Can Inc. was selected by county officials to run the shelter at the Hannah More site in Reisterstown - and replace an operator that has been accused of intimidating residents, singling out some for dismissal on trumped-up charges and offering an unfair grievance process.

Lonnie J. Davis Sr., I Can's founder and executive director, said his organization plans a number of improvements, including installing video cameras to make parking lots more secure and cleaning floors, to boost morale among residents.

"You show people love, they'll show you respect," he said.

Dianne Pasternack, deputy director of the Homeless Persons Representation Project, an advocacy group, said she was pleased by the selection of I Can because the two organizations have worked together. Her organization has reviewed the legality of some I Can policies.

The Homeless Persons Representation Project has been critical of Community Building Group Ltd., which operated the Hannah More shelter for the past year. Last year, Community Building Group closed the Elan Vital Center transitional housing program amid complaints similar to those at Hannah More.

I Can was selected for "the services that they are able to provide and the fact that their cost was in line with what the county was able to offer," said Maureen Robinson, a spokeswoman for the county Department of Social Services. She said some bidders exceeded the $270,000 that the county was prepared to pay for the contract, which must be approved by the County Council.

I Can was among four organizations to apply for the contract. Others were Risk Foundation, which operates shelters in East Baltimore; Helping Up Mission, operator of a shelter in East Baltimore; and Congress Heights Training Center, whose officials managed the Hannah More shelter and the Elan Vital Center for the Community Building Group.

Risk Foundation seemed set to take over at the Hannah More site because it was the only provider to respond to an initial request for applications in April. But when the organization did not provide a requested financial audit for 1999, the county asked for a new round of applications in June.

The 40-bed Hannah More shelter is one of two in the county for families.

The county also is requesting applications for a contract to operate a transitional housing program at the site of the former Elan Vital Center in Owings Mills. County officials want to use nearly a half-million dollars in federal grants to hire a private company to run the program, which has 20 apartments and provides 60 percent of the county's transitional housing for the homeless.

Robinson said officials hope to select an operator for that program by the end of the summer.

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