Day shelter's first year a success

April 05, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

HAGERSTOWN - The first full year of the day shelter at New Light Metropolitan Community Church has been a success, as many people who sought help there now have permanent housing and jobs, said REACH Executive Director Terri Baker.

About 42 people per day on average attended a day shelter run jointly by REACH Turning Point and the Community Action Council during the 2003-04 winter season, Baker said Sunday, two days after the program shut down for the warm-weather months.

She said the day shelter at the church, at 40 W. Church St., was more helpful for people seeking to improve their conditions because city agencies and businesses were open at the same time.


Baker said dozens found permanent housing, openings in group homes, treatment for substance problems or health maladies and jobs.

She was unable to release specific numbers.

"With the average stay of 19 nights, we can see there are many people going through positive steps," Baker said. "We see people every day move into new places, but we don't have a case management program to keep track of that."

Baker said a key to the program is the work of volunteers, who assisted both homeless people and downtown residents who needed help with applications, advice and motivation.

"There's personal connections at the day shelter," she said. "They feel more comfortable because there's stability, and homeless people lack a lot of stability."

Baker said having a shelter open during the day helped many gain "immediate results" because they could go directly to businesses and agencies during their normal operating hours.

The early November 2003 opening of the day shelter ushered in its first full year of operation, though it originally opened in February 2003 for a partial run.

Before that, some homeless people who were staying at the REACH Cold Weather Shelter, which is only open at night, sought shelter from the cold at Washington County Free Library during daytime hours.

Baker said REACH and other agencies are looking at ways to improve the shelter.

"We need some more services like mental health staff or people to convince some of them to go into rehab or Alcoholics Anonymous," she said.

She also said many are still having problems finding permanent housing because of the poor economy and increasing rental costs.

Baker said several day shelter attendees have had success through the Community Action Council's supportive housing program, which has placed some in efficiency rooms at the Dagmar Hotel.

"It's an excellent program because there is a case-management program that helps people set goals and get on track," Baker said.

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