Volunteers sought for cold weather shelter

September 25, 1997


Staff Writer

About 1,500 homeless people took refuge from the cold last winter during the first year of the Washington County Cold Weather Homeless Shelter, and officials are looking for volunteers to run the program again this winter.

Some officials were surprised at the number of people who were homeless last year, but Carrol Springer, who helped set up the shelter, wasn't one of them.

Springer saw the need seven years ago when she helped set up a similar shelter in Frederick County. That shelter attracted about 40 people a night. On the average, about 14 people a night stayed in Washington County's shelter last year.


"The people are out there. They're just invisible," said Springer, assistant director of the Washington County Department of Social Services.

Some of the 1,500 that used the shelter last year stayed more than once, Springer said.

"There was a core that was almost there from the beginning," Springer said.

The cold weather shelter was started last year to serve homeless people who could not get into other shelters because of admittance requirements or because the shelters were full. Some shelters take only women and children, or do not admit people who have been drinking.

Shelter officials said a lot of the people left homeless during the winter are single men, many with addictions or mental problems.

As it did last year, the Cold Weather Homeless Shelter will rotate among eight churches in the area, staying at each location for two weeks. It will be open from Nov. 9 to April 5. The churches donate a cot and food, and Washington County Hospital donates pillows and bed linens, Springer said.

About 150 volunteers helped run the shelter last year, but organizers are not sure how many will return.

People interested in volunteering may attend two training sessions on Oct. 9 and Oct. 18 at Christ Reformed Church on West Franklin Street.

Volunteers are needed to help check in people to the shelters and "be a friend" to them, Springer said. They are trained in how to keep services consistent from church to church and in the rules, such as no alcohol, weapons or loud behavior.

Interested volunteers can contact Frank Beckwith at 1-301-733-2371.

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