Anne Arundel County's only shelter for battered women and children has closed its doors, the victim of poor supervision and financial difficulties, its board president said.
Good Neighbors Unlimited Inc., a private, nonprofit corporation, shut down its shelter on the grounds of Crownsville Hospital Center on Wednesday because it did not have enough money to hire additional staffers needed to meet county health department standards, according to board president Ruth McLaine.
"The shelter has been in operation for six years and has housed about 500 people annually, with no limit on the amount of time they were allowed to stay, according to shelter officials.
Eight women and 18 children, who were staying at the shelter when it closed, have been relocated by the county Department of Social Services to motels in the area and another shelter in Baltimore City.
The closing leaves the county without a shelter at a time when statistics show an increase in domestic violence here. County police reported 94 instances of domestic violence through August this year compared with 119 last year.
The decision to shut down the facility followed a two-week period during which several staff members and clients contracted a virus that ultimately resulted in one mother and child being hospitalized briefly.
After that, McLaine said, county health officer Dr. J. Howard Beard directed the shelter to have its food catered and ensure better personal hygiene among its residents. The virus, called "camphlobacter," caused nausea and vomiting and was transmitted through "poor toilet habits," McLaine said the health department found.
McLaine said Good Neighbors' board of directors had intended to close for 10 days to two weeks to clean out the facility after the virus, but decided to close indefinitely because it could not afford to hire the staff necessary to enforce the health officer's directions.
Robert Agee, chief aide to County Executive O. James Lighthizer, said the county government has not been officially notified of the shelter's closing and has requested suggestions from the County Commission for Women on how to shelter spouse abuse victims.
McLaine blamed the shelter's financial woes on limited support by the county.
She and other board members said they plan to ask the county for a grant to guarantee a salary for a new director. The shelter's previous director was fired two weeks ago after the virus broke out, McLaine said.
Good Neighbors has been plagued by financial difficulties since it began in a Glen Burnie home in September 1977. Last December, it received emergency funding from Lighthizer's predecessor, Robert A. Pascal, to carry it through fiscal 1983. Yet its employes had not been paid for 10 weeks when the new fiscal year began July 1, at which time 1984 funds were allotted to bring salaries up to date, McLaine said.
This year the shelter received $26,000 from the county, $15,000 from the state Department of Human Resources and $29,000 from other sources such as churches and women's groups, about half of what it had requested, according to board member and Circuit Judge James L. Wray.