Local homeless shelters full, homeless moved to motels

Grassroots sheltered homeless in Howard motels as shelter reached full capacity

At the Church at Covenant Park in Ellicott City, members like senior pastor Dan Crow have a special word for the homeless who took shelter from the snow-battered streets over the weekend: guests.

"It's like home," said Crow, as he made rounds during dinner over the weekend. "I've got a list. I try to know all of their names. We all do."

As the blizzard blanketed the area in snow, local shelter services like Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center, were at full capacity, providing shelter to 51 people, including a handful of families.

Because of freezing temperatures, the shelter placed dozens of people in local motels, including eight families with children, according to Grassroots.

Snowed in for much of the weekend, a handful of staff members stayed at the church around the clock to provide guests with food, shelter and "a touch of warmth." Amidst an area with a ping pong table, air hockey, couches and showers, guests find private space they wouldn't otherwise find in institutionalized settings, Pastor said.

The smallest of donations have tremendous value, said Lynn Messick, assistant director of shelter programs at Grassroots. The county delivered salt to the Grassroots on Friday and a man donated three 60-pound bags of salt on Thursday, said Messick.

The Grassroots shelter has increased its capacity from 32 to 51 people, said Messick.

Michael Hitesman made a conscious decision to get snowed in with guests - whom he calls his "extended family."

After working with the cold weather shelter program at the church for six years and coordinating with Grassroots, he says there is a clear unmet need. "More is needed, not just from the government, but from every place," he said. "Everyone has a stake in the game."

"We know that we have not taken care of everyone who is homeless," said Mike Waterson, a pastor at Covenant.

Waterson says he gets from giving more than he can put his finger on. "Homelessness is not something that's way out there," he said. "Anyone of us can be in that position."

Homelessness does not have one face, Hitesman says. He has seen guests suffer with mental health issues, addiction and job loss. "There's such a broad spectrum of causes," he says. "As we sit here in Howard County, we think everyone is doing well. But that is not the case."

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