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REACH signs lease to operate shelter

December 24, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

A local religious-based organization has signed a 30-year lease with Christ's Reformed Church in Hagerstown to operate a permanent homeless shelter during the winter months at the former Cannon Shoe Factory on the corner of West Franklin and Prospect streets.

REACH - Religious Effort to Assist and Care for the Homeless - plans to spend about $750,000 on renovations and furniture for the building's third floor so it can run a cold weather shelter for the homeless there, REACH Executive Director Terri Baker said Tuesday.

The building is next to Christ's Reformed Church.

"We're excited that we're here," Baker said.

The shelter now operates at different churches at night during the cold weather months. Different congregations will still volunteer at the shelter, but the new location will be more convenient because the service will be provided under the same roof, Baker said.

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Baker said she expects the REACH office to be in the building in August 2004 and the shelter to open on the last Sunday in October 2004.

There will be room for about 50 people per night at the shelter. The shelter currently averages about 38 people per night, Baker said.

In cases of severe weather, Baker said, shelter officials would make room for more than 50 people.

REACH provided shelter to 376 different people last year. Each guest spent an average of 16 nights at the shelter, Baker said.

REACH has raised about $200,000 toward the cost of the renovation and is planning a Have a Heart for the Homeless campaign to raise the rest of the cost, Baker said.

The campaign will begin on Feb. 14.

In addition to providing shelter, other REACH programs will be available at the new location, including 24-Hour Crisis Intervention and Faith in Action Caregiving.

The Crisis Intervention Program takes calls for help from the public regarding medical, financial or other matters, and then determines whether REACH has the resources to meet those needs, according to REACH's Web site.

Faith in Action Caregiving is a program under which volunteers provide senior citizens and people with disabilities with basic assistance, such as giving them rides to appointments or helping with chores, the site says.

Baker said REACH entered into a tentative agreement with Christ's Reformed Church over the summer, but had to work out some details before the lease became official.

In October, the Hagerstown Planning Commission withdrew proposed zoning regulations that would have placed restrictions on homeless shelters in the city.

Under the proposals, homeless shelters would have been required to be open 24 hours and provide constant supervision.

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