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Permanent shelter may be coming

REACH and Christ's Reformed Church have tentatively agreed to open a homeless shelter on the third floor of a building next to

REACH and Christ's Reformed Church have tentatively agreed to open a homeless shelter on the third floor of a building next to

June 27, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

REACH and Christ's Reformed Church have arrived at a tentative agreement to open a permanent homeless shelter on the third floor of a building next to the church, the REACH executive director said Thursday.

All that remains is for the board of REACH - Religious Effort to Assist and Care for the Homeless - to vote at its July 14 meeting to accept the agreement to make the former Cannon Shoe Factory the permanent home of the cold weather shelter, Terri Baker said.

"It does look optimistic," Baker said.

The shelter has been operating without a permanent site, rotating among area churches from October to April.

The earliest the shelter would open in the 65,000- to 100,000-square-foot space on West Franklin Street near Prospect Street would be February 2004, she said. REACH, which runs programs year-round, will use some of the space as an office, she said.

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The church and REACH had negotiated whether the shelter would use space on two floors, as the church wanted, or on one floor, as REACH wanted, Baker said. It would have cost more in money and resources to operate the shelter on two floors, she said.

The Rev. Don R. Stevenson of Christ's Reformed Church said Thursday the church would not talk about the negotiations now but might do so later.

City officials have said they had expected for some time that the Cannon Shoe Factory site would be the shelter's permanent home.

Some, including Hagerstown City Councilman Lewis C. Metzner, said they were surprised earlier this month to learn that REACH was considering a different location, at 35 E. Washington St., as a backup site.

That news prompted Metzner to say, during the June 10 council meeting, "A homeless shelter in downtown Hagerstown is unacceptable." He later clarified that remark, saying he was referring to the downtown central core, and not to the former shoe factory site.

Metzner praised the news of an agreement between REACH and the church.

"That would be great. That would be a very positive thing for all involved," Metzner said.

Metzner had called for a summit between the city, REACH, the Washington County Free Library and other groups to talk about problems related to the homeless as well as their effect on downtown revitilization. That summit still is planned.

Last winter, some homeless people spent their days in the Washington County Free Library, prompting complaints and concerns by patrons and library officials.

The shelter requires its users to be out from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Baker said Thursday it was too soon to say whether REACH would have the resources and money to operate a day shelter.

Baker said REACH will spend about $200,000 to renovate the space for the shelter, and an additional $400,000 for other expenses, and the church will provide the space rent-free for 30 years.

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