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GSA, County Part Ways on Sheltering Homeless

Good Shepherd Alliance (GSA), Inc. tentatively plans to take in single men and women at its two Loudoun facilities, while the county will also serve families.

GSA's extended contract ends Jan. 31 to operate the county's three homeless shelters on Weeds Road in Leesburg, something the non-profit organization has done since 1993. In the new contract proposal, the county required that the shelters be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The GSA board said it could not satisfy the requirement with the funding allotted in the county's Fiscal Year (FY) 2003 budget — $150,000 in local appropriations and $60,000 in state and federal grants for shelter operations.

GSA's contract with the county originally ended Nov. 30, but when the county did not have a new contractor by that date, GSA offered to extend the contract by two months. Since then, GSA has been moving out usable furniture from the three shelters to GSA's facility on Limestone School Road near Lucketts and seeking replacement furniture, mainly dressers.

"As we get stuff out there, we can start registering single women," said Mark Gunderman, vice-chairman of the GSA board of directors.

The Lucketts area facility has five bedrooms and can house seven women and with remodeling another three women. When GSA leaves the Woods Road shelters, single women housed there will be relocated to the Lucketts facility, which sits on a 10-acre site.

"We want to start slowly," said Joyce "Joy" Trickett, GSA board chairman, adding that single women may fall second to women with children. "Women need to have that support also."

GSA already takes in single men at a homeless shelter on Ryan Road on property owned by the developer of Brambleton. As with the men's shelter, "the county won't have any call on how we do things out there. We'll be back to using our own policies," Trickett said. "We're going to spend our time working with homeless clients. We spent a lot of time working with the county. Now, we can spend time with the homeless."

WITH GSA leaving the three shelters, the county has until Feb. 1 to replace the furniture and furnishings that GSA will remove from the facilities.

"We're basically at a zero starting point," said Cindy Mester, director of Housing Services.

In November, the county provided $200,000 for operations in addition to $150,000 already approved for the FY03 budget. The supplement includes $30,000 for GSA's two-month extended contract but does not provide any funds to furnish the 40-bed shelters. So far, the county has collected one sofa and three office desks through donations and still needs 17 bunk or trundle beds, three living room sets, one dining room set and linens, pots and pans and other kitchen and house accessories.

"It's nice to see the community pull together," Mester said. "I'm very appreciative of the good community support we've been getting ... from citizens and church groups. It's been great."

The county is negotiating a contract with another organization or agency to operate the three shelters. The county received three proposals besides the one GSA submitted and currently is negotiating with one of the proposed contractors. County staff does not know when the contract will be finalized.

"We're still working on the fine points," said Tina Borger, chief purchasing agent for the county.