Homeless Shelter Coming to Kent Island Has Some Locals Concerned - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Homeless Shelter Coming to Kent Island Has Some Locals Concerned, Others Excited

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 STEVENSVILLE, Md.-  Haven Ministries has been operating two homeless shelters in Queen Anne's county for the past several years.  Now, in one of those locations, they hope to build a larger permanent shelter to help more people get back on their feet.  Haven Ministries says this will be a major benefit to the homeless in Queen Anne's county, but people living in that neighborhood say it's not a good location.

Neighbors say they were blind sided when it was announced that the small rancher on that lot which has functioned as a shelter for the past few years would be torn down, and in it's place, a 27 bed permanent shelter will be built.

Today, it's a small rancher nestled between a junk yard, a service center, and a SHA station.  But come next year, it will be a roughly 6,000 square foot shelter.  This is something Haven Ministries director Krista Pettit says is much needed.

"What we'd like to do is put both of those quality safe programs onto the same site, and when we expand the facility, we will also have offices, so we have offices to work out of to help people.  We'll also have a chance to further our programming and bring in classes and programs that our clients would need to better their lives," said Pettit.

While the neighbors in that community support the idea of a homeless shelter, they don't support the location.  They have formed a group called "SOS" or "Save Our Stevensville", and say the proximity to parks and schools is a major problem.

"Being so close to two elementary schools, a middle school, a high school, a public trail, a park where the kids play, a library.  We don't feel that there are services here that the chronically homeless need to get back on their feet," said Steven Pringle.

"Many of them lack transportation. They need medical as well as psychological services, they need social services, they need many other services that simply aren't located in this area," said Veronica Lawson.

"Even for women and children, the best location would be downtown Centreville, where they could walk to social services, health services, the grocery store," said Henry Butler.

But Pettit disagrees.

"Our clients do need some of the services in Centreville.  However, just because they need the services doesn't mean they need to be at them 24/7"

Pettit says their clients will have structured days, and won't be wandering aimlessly while the doors are closed during the day.  For those services, Haven will bus them to Centreville when necessary.

As for location, she says "It's close to the service jobs, close to the schools for our women and children, close to the public parks which are open to the public including those that we serve.  It's close to the senior center and close to county wide transportation."

But locals still aren't convinced, and are attending every meeting they can to try and put a stop to the new shelter.

We spoke to commissioner Jim Moran, who says he doesn't believe the shelter will bring any safety problem, citing that one of the shelters has operated for 9 years alongside a church and school with no incident.  Moran also reported the shelter has been scaled down 20 percent from the original square footage, and beds have been reduced from 44 total, to 27 total: 15 emergency beds, 12 transitional.

The fate of the shelter will be decided at July 22nd's state board of public works meeting in Annapolis.

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