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Homeless people not problematic for library lately

December 30, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

The Washington County Free Library this winter is not having the problems it did last winter with homeless people spending time in the library, Executive Director Mary Baykan said Monday.

Baykan credits the operation of a temporary day shelter for the homeless this winter with solving the problem that occurred last winter. Some patrons last year complained they were unable to find seats because of homeless people who spent all or part of the day at the public facility.

The change demonstrates anew the importance of a permanent 24-hour shelter, Baykan said.

While REACH - an acronym for Religious Effort to Assist and Care for the Homeless - operates a homeless shelter that provides overnight lodging and food for the homeless from October to April, it is closed from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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Some homeless were going to the library during the day, where they were required to abide by the library's prohibitions against eating, drinking or sleeping.

During the latter part of winter last year, as well as this winter, REACH has operated a day shelter at New Light Metropolitan Community Church at 40 W. Church St.

The Hagerstown City Council helped fund the day shelter both years.

While a few people who appear to be homeless spend time at the library, "the acute situation that we had last winter is certainly not here, because of the day shelter," Baykan said.

"The library can continue to function as a research center this winter, which has always been our concern," Baykan said.

There is a noticeable increase in people using the library solely as a place for shelter during a break between when the day shelter closes and the night shelter opens, she said.

REACH Executive Director Teri Baker said the day shelter closes at 4 p.m. and the night shelter opens at 7 p.m.

Baker said she is pleased to hear that the library is not having a problem this winter with the homeless.

"I am glad we can all meet people's needs," Baker said.

REACH is hoping it can provide a 24-hour homeless shelter when it moves into a permanent location, she said. The shelter currently rotates among area churches.

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

Baker has 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.

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