Women forced from home with their children by domestic discord need a place to recoup, the self-help Network of Abused Women believed. Why not rent a house to give the refugees shelter for up to six months while they found jobs and took stock of the future? The main problem was finding money for rent.
The Rev. Lon Dring's Community Ministry of Montgomery County was hiring trucks to deliver church-donated furniture and appliances to low-income households, and to move the worldly goods of families who had been evicted. Here too, the problem was financing.
Both programs, it appears, will get funds from community development block grants, a flow of dollars from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Dring's $15,000 grant would be his third; the women's shelter, seeking $17,000, is a new undertaking.
Montgomery County has been promised about $5 million for the year beginning July 1, about the same amount it is getting this year. County planners have proposed that the money be spent on 64 separate projects.
The program's focus, by law, is on bricks and asphalt in low- and moderate-income communities. Grants have financed home repairs, community centers, sidewalks, roads, playgrounds, shopping district spruce-ups and physical projects that are judged to improve the quality of life in selected communities.
Funds also may go to related service programs, such as the Community Ministry's trucking service.
Montgomery County's reputation for affluence aside, HUD has determined that it has enough poor residents and substandard housing to qualify for such grants. Currently, about 38,000 rental households in the county are considered to be in need of assistance.
But HUD's current outlays are based on the 1970 census. When data from the 1980 count goes into use later this year, Montgomery County could find that the past decade's development in jobs and housing has made it less deserving of this federal largesse.
The mood of frugality in Ronald Reagan's Washington has raised further fears that the program might be an easy mark for budget cutters.
Last year, Montgomery received slightly more money than expected. "But I don't think that will ever be the case again," remarked Kathleen Kennedy, who handles community development grants for the county government.
So, to be prudent, Kennedy said, grant proposals approved by the County Council on Tuesday (they now go to HUD for consideration) tend to be smaller and of shorter term than those of past years. Large capital projects now under way will continue to get money, but with few exceptions, new ones will not be initiated.
The proposals call for $341,000 for neighborhood improvement in Norbeck and another $300,000 for upgrading the Lyttonsville/Rosemary Blair area. A shopping district at the intersection of Flower Avenue and Piney Branch Road in Silver Spring would get a $252,000 facelift.
The Housing Opportunities Commission would get a $140,000 grant to improve public housing. Another $291,000 would go to rehabilitate commercial and multifamily buildings. The largest single grant would be $484,000 for repairs to single-family houses.
About $370,000 has been earmarked again for a recreation center at Emory Grove. However, some residents there have become frustrated at repeated delays in construction, now reported stalled by disputes over sewage and access rights.
"Handicapped programs are . . . becoming more and more recognized as a genuine need of the community," said Jacqueline Simon, head of the citizens advisory committee that helped in the approval process. Next year's package would include three grants for projects aiding the handicapped.
The Silver Spring headquarters of the National Association of the Deaf would get $82,000 to widen doors, install visual alarms and refit bathrooms on the building's ground floor. To qualify for other federal aid, the association must make its facilities accessible to the disabled.
An additional $71,000 would go toward refitting day-care centers for the handicapped and installing audio amplifiers in selected county buildings.
"All the needs are significant," says Jacqueline Simon. "When people sit down representing competing interests and they recognize that there are only X number of dollars, it's a very strenuous and emotional process."