Helayne Baker was misidentified in a caption in last week's Maryland Weekly. She is director of the Stepping Stones shelter.
The Army Reserve Training Center in Rockville, earmarked by the federal government as a potential site for an emergency shelter for Montgomery County's homeless, has been turned down for such use by an ad hoc group of volunteers and county government representatives.
The training center at 1850 Old Baltimore Rd. was originally examined as a possible shelter in response to a presidential directive making Defense Department facilities available where they are needed for the nation's homeless.
County officials said figures for the county's homeless are not available. However, the number of people housed at a four-bed emergency shelter in Bethesda rose from 544 in 191 to 622 in 1982, an official there said.
Several boarding houses for men in the area recently went out of business and the Rockville Presbyterian Church's Rainbow Place shelter for women closed March 12 after offering housing to the needy for 100 days this winter.
Meanwhile, a 2-year-old shelter in south Rockville reportedly turned away more than half of the people who asked to stay there last year.
A Defense Department fact sheet issued in March on its Shelter for the Homeless Program outlined the type of service facilities throughout the country that would be available for shelters. It particularly designated Army Reserve centers as candidates because they often are in downtown areas.
However, the Rockville armory's location, hours of use by the National Guard and operating costs were cited by county officials as reasons for eliminating it as a possible shelter.
"We have not ruled it out," said Gail Nachman, director of the handicapped coordination unit in the county's Department of Family Services. But, she added, it is "quite a hike from the nearest bus stop. We would have to bring the people in there."
Because the facility is used on weekdays, those seeking shelter would have to be out by 7 a.m., Nachman said, adding: "That may not be a problem, but I don't know if you can throw a mother and child or children out on the street at 7 in the morning." The drill hall also is used on weekends.
Utilities would cost $134 a day, "whether two or 100 people used the shelter," Nachman added. The ad hoc group is therefore exploring the possibility of contracting with private groups to locate a shelter elsewhere.
"At those prices, it's certainly not a gift," said county government spokesman Charles Maier. "For $50,000 a year, I think we'll be able to find something better."
Montgomery County currently runs the Crisis Center in Bethesda that serves as an emergency shelter and a 26-bed shelter for battered women and their children. Stepping Stones, a four-bedroom facility in Rockville, recently acquired another four-bedroom house in the same area and is open to families and single men and women. Recently, another new facility, Greentree Shelter, opened with room for 25 women and women with children. To protect its residents, who include battered women who need a secure place to stay, the shelter does not publicize its address.
Greentree Shelter, where women can stay for two weeks, or longer if necessary, is based on a concept of self-help, said Jarrett Fishpaw, director of the Baptist Home for Children, the organization that funded the shelter. It charges about $15 a night.
The shelter does not admit chronically homeless or mentally ill women, or those who have a drug or alcohol dependencies.
The 2-year-old Stepping Stones shelter in south Rockville had to turn away 60 percent of the people who asked to stay there last year, director Helayne Baker said. Until the shelter received a block grant to cover rent this year, it was largely funded by religious and civic organizations, she said. This year, shelter organizers hope to raise enough money to buy a large home and to increase its staff.
The shelter takes in families or individuals but also has a policy of not admitting those with either chronic mental illness or drug and alcohol problems. It is managed with an emphasis on self-help.
Residents can eat three meals a day at the shelter and are asked to contribute what they can afford.
If residents are working to meet their goals, which are set with the help of Baker, they can stay for up to two weeks, or longer if necessary, Baker said.
The county, meanwhile, is considering several other sites for another emergency shelter for the area. Tim Siegel, coordinator of the Coalition for the Homeless, said the leading alternative is in the former Johns Hopkins' applied physics lab at 8621 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring.
Nachman said other possible shelters are the basement of a small county office building at 8500 Colesville Rd., Silver Spring, that would need "extensive renovation" and a county-owned house in Kensington currently used for storage. Maier added the Rainbow Motor Lodge, 11520 Rockville Pike, Rockville, to the list.
But, Maier said, "We don't find there's a significant homeless problem in the county. There may be 20 to 25 men and women, and we would plan to accommodate them. There may be hidden homeless we haven't discovered yet."