More funds sought to cover cost of homeless shelter

The Baltimore Sun

Backers of Annapolis' only homeless shelter are seeking more money from the city and Anne Arundel County to keep pace with escalating construction costs for a new, larger facility planned near Parole.

Officials from the Light House asked the City Council Monday night to double its funding in each of the next two fiscal years to $400,000. That would bring the city's total funding for the project to $1 million.

The 22,000-square-foot building was expected to cost $6.8 million a year ago, but this week, shelter officials estimated the price tag has risen to $8.5 million. Construction costs have jumped from $150 to $200 per square foot, officials said.

Marilyn Baker, development and communications director, and Joseph P. Gill, project director, said they have secured nearly $4.7 million in funding commitments from public and private donors, and they plan to raise another $2.2 million before beginning construction next spring. They also intend to sell the existing shelter at 206 West St., currently appraised at $1.6 million.

"We turned away 500 people last year," Baker said. "Right now we don't have the room for the services. The need is growing, and we're turning away people."

In June, shelter officials acquired 1.4 acres on Hudson Street for the facility that is expected to be completed in December 2009. The property consists of six lots -- four in Annapolis and two in Parole. The shelter will be on the Annapolis side, officials said.

The new facility will drastically increase Light House's capacity -- from 15 beds and two family apartments to 45 beds, with 30 for men and 15 for women, and four family apartments.

Other features include an employment resource center, teaching and training classrooms and a day center where chronically homeless people will have access to food, showers, a phone, the Internet, mail and job training services.

The nonprofit group Annapolis Area Ministries Inc. runs the current shelter, which provides services for hundreds of homeless men, women and children each year.

The city has already granted Light House Shelter $200,000 in bond money and allocated $400,000 in bonds for its next two fiscal years. Mayor Ellen O. Moyer said city leaders are beginning budget discussions and would have to consider the "circumstances of the economy and our capacity to borrow."

"I don't think anybody can argue that the facility they're building is not a needed facility," Moyer said.

Light House officials have similarly requested an increase in funding from the county.

County Executive John R. Leopold said the county has already allocated $210,000 in its current budget and $200,000 for fiscal year 2009 for the shelter. He added that he plans to request an additional $200,000 in capital funding for fiscal year 2009 through 2011.

"I made a commitment that when I got the anti-panhandler legislation passed, I wanted to reach out" to the homeless, Leopold said.

Alderman Ross H. Arnett expressed support for increasing the funding. "This is the city leveraging a small amount of funding to take care of people who need help," Arnett said. "It's a small investment for a huge return."

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