I would like to share with Maryland Weekly readers a recent experience my staff and I had in developing a shelter for homeless men in the Aspen Hill area. In most cases when a program such as a shelter, group home or drug-treatment program is proposed, the immediate reaction by the neighborhood involved is to organize opposition to the project, often without attempting to learn much about the program's goals.

Last year, the Montgomery County Department of Family Resources proposed using a surplus fire station in Aspen Hill as a winter shelter. While there was concern in the community, the people of the area were willing to hear what their government was proposing. At a meeting convened by one of the community leaders, Elliot Chabot, it was agreed that the community and the county would establish a citizen's committee to assure that questions and concerns of the community were addressed and that the community could advise the county in the development of the program. These citizens together with my staff worked hard during the last year to develop this critically needed resource for the homeless.

The county was able to get $100,000 in funding from the state to renovate the facility. Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington will operate the program under contract to the county. Last week the citizen's advisory group held its final meeting before the Dec. 1 opening of the shelter. At that meeting not only was there a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment by all involved, but several people also voiced their gratitude for having a facility in their community so that they can volunteer to serve people who are far less fortunate than themselves.

I am deeply grateful to the citizens of Aspen Hill, especially their leadership, not only for helping with this program, but also for being an example of community and government working together in an active partnership to help the poor. I look forward to our continued working relationship. For those of us who have been involved, this will be a very special Thanksgiving holiday.


Director Montgomery County Department of Family Resources Rockville