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Homeless specialist aims for cure, not bandage

February 04, 2002

Homeless specialist aims for cure, not bandage



By MARLO BARNHART
marlob@herald-mail.com


Bob Shade doesn't like bandages.

As the new full-time homeless outreach specialist for Turning Point of Washington County, Shade wants to cure the problem, not just treat it.

"My goal is to rechannel the resources we already have in this community to eliminate homelessness," said Shade as he embarks on his new mission with the agency.

Most of Turning Point's clients are people with psychiatric disabilities who need varying levels of help to live and work independently in the community.

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"Often these people are used to someone else making their decisions for them so they find it especially difficult when they go out on their own," Shade said.

He credits his predecessor, Cindi Messersmith, with laying wonderful groundwork for him. She is now working with Turning Point's residential clients, he said.

In addition to finding single apartments and living quarters for clients, Turning Point also maintains a number of group living homes in the community where clients reside with staff.

Shade said he has developed a daily routine that is fairly rigid so his clients will know when they can reach him if they need help.

"I try to be in the office at 25 E. North Ave. in the mornings," he said. "I do my paperwork but I'm also there for clients who come in."

The rest of the time, Shade tries to be on the street.

"I stop in at CASA, the Rescue Mission and the REACH Cold Weather Shelter to find people to hook up with my programs," Shade said.

The number of available beds in Washington County changes from day to day. Some places will take just men, others just women and children, and a few can accommodate intact families.

"I get great pleasure knowing someone has gotten an apartment or the food stamps and other services they need, etc.," Shade said.

Before coming to Turning Point, Shade was a juvenile addictions counselor with the State of Maryland. The change has been dramatic but Shade said he is determined to make a difference.

"The more we do in the long run for these people, the less it will ultimately cost us as a society," Shade said.

Driven by a grant, Shade's project goals of eliminating homelessness are aided by Section 8 housing, which is government-subsidized and income-based. There is also Shelter Care Plus for those who don't qualify for Section 8 because of criminal records, etc.

"I also have several landlords who are willing to work with me and these clients," Shade said.

He stressed that there is always room for volunteers, including individuals, civic and church groups, who want to help him cure the homeless problem in Washington County.

For more information, call Shade at 301-733-6063.

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