The first permanent shelter for single, homeless women in Montgomery County is scheduled to open this summer in east Rockville.
The County Council last week approved the use of $30,000 in federal funds to convert the vacant half of a building at 251 N. Stonestreet Ave. into a 20-bed facility. County officials said the shelter will give women who spend their days wandering the city's streets a regular place to sleep at night.
A paid staff member and a volunteer will be on hand at the shelter each night, a spokesman said.
The shelter will be open from 7 p.m. to 8 a.m.
FCS Communications, a commercial printing business, will continue to occupy the other half of the building, which is located in a light-industrial area of auto parts shops and parking lots.
Associated Catholic Charities, which currently operates four county shelters, will administer the Stonestreet facility under a contract with the county's Department of Family Resources.
The county will pay about $70,000 this year for rent, salaries for the shelter staff and other costs, said David Morrissette, director of the shelter program for Catholic Charities. The group will seek nearly $10,000 in donations to make improvements, he said. Catholic Charities will absorb about $2,000 of the operational costs "for things you just can't foresee, such as subway fare for the women," he said.
Morrissette said 18 women have been shuffled from one temporary shelter to another since the Rainbow Shelter at the Rockville Presbyterian Methodist Church closed in March. The women have often stayed at other churches, and at county-donated space in the old Peary High School in Rockville, and at Holiday Park, a senior citizens center in Wheaton.
The new shelter, to be located two blocks from the Rockville Metro station, will offer beds to women without families, Morrissette said.
The Greentree shelter in Bethesda, which serves homeless women and their children, and Stepping Stones, a recently expanded Rockville shelter that accommodates families, are geared toward "people who are in a more temporary situation." Morrissette said those facilities provide such services as day care and job counseling to help residents "get back out on their own."
During the day, Morrissette said, many of the homeless women in Rockville walk around the Courthouse Square area, and in and out of government buildings there.
While county officials say many of the county's homeless are addicted to drugs or alcohol or are mentally ill, Morrissette said there are also homeless people who "just can't make ends meet in Montgomery."
"Our women are a bit different from the ones at some other places," he said. "Ours probably cannot get out of the shelter soon. We will not set a maximum on how long they can stay."
According to Department of Family Resources figures, the county provided 11,613 "shelter nights" to women in five shelters between July 1984 and June 1985.
Morrissette said a caseworker will work 20 hours a week at the Stonestreet shelter to help women contact government agencies to receive public assistance such as Welfare, or services available to the handicapped or elderly. A group of doctors with the Archbishop's Health Care Network will visit every two weeks to provide free medical service, he said.
Unlike the openings of some other county shelters, no measurable community opposition has accompanied the announcement of the Stonestreet shelter. Carroll House, a Catholic Charities-run evening shelter for homeless men at the Forest Glen annex of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, opened in November 1984, but only after months of sometimes heated protest by neighborhood groups.
Lauren Newman, of the Family Resources Department, said no complaints have been lodged with the county against plans for the Stonestreet shelter, which will be located on the edge of the Maryvale and Lincoln Park communities.
Morrissette said the East Rockville Citizens Association supported the Stonestreet shelter in testimony before the county zoning board.
"While these women are invisible to most of us, I think people are waking up to the need for more shelters, and trusting us a little more to make good judgments about where to put them," Morrissette said.