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Homeless shelter completes new apartments

August 23, 1998

St. John's ShelterBy MATTHEW BIENIEK / Staff Writer

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer [enlarge]




The apartments with freshly painted white walls, new furniture, ovens and refrigerators would send a tingle up the spine of even hardened apartment hunters. But the Sunday afternoon open house at 14 Randolph Ave. was not for a real estate company showing off new apartments.

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The open house was for Washington County's newly expanded homeless shelter - St. John's Shelter for the Homeless.

The kitchen is stocked with new pots and pans. New towels donated by children's groups at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Lappans hang in the bathroom.

"A lot of people have very little when they come in," said Louise Coleman, caretaker of the shelter.

Televisions were supposed to be included with two of the apartments but a burglar stole them on Aug. 13, she said.

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Families can stay at the shelter while they pull their lives back together, and parents look for jobs and connect with social services, she said. Most tenants are referred by the Community Action Council, she said.

"They can find peace here," she said.

Joyce Chabot, president of the board of directors of the shelter, said families can live at the shelter for six to eight weeks.

"Before expanding, we've had to refuse referrals because we were full," Chabot said.

A mother of three who lives at the shelter with her children said the place has the feel of home. She preferred not to identify herself. She starts a job Sept. 9 and is looking for an apartment of her own.

"And it's a lot quieter than where we used to live," said her son. Last week, the children were helping Coleman with yard chores and moving furniture for the new building, Coleman said.

The three new apartments at 14 Randolph Ave. now make shelter space available for five families at a time. The new first-floor apartment is handicapped-accessible. The apartments can hold families of up to five or six people, said Rob Noland, director of St. John's Shelter for the Homeless, Inc.

The shelter has operated next door at 16 Randolph Ave., since 1986, Noland said.

Money for the expansion came from aggressive grant-seeking and cooperation with George Andreve, manager of the community development department of the City of Hagerstown, said Noland.

A community development block grant paid for $75,000 of the project, Noland said. Federal and state grants and loans made up the rest, he said. It took a $50,000 federal lead abatement grant to clean the building of lead paint and fixtures, he said. The lead cleanup took three weeks, he said.

"We were just a shoestring operation, but we pulled together and did this to help," said Bill Soulis, treasurer for the shelter.

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