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County Temporarily Closes Shelter

The county has closed one of three emergency homeless shelters with plans to reopen the shelter once grant funds are obtained. The other two shelters on Woods Road in Leesburg have remained open during the transition of providers.

Good Shepherd Alliance (GSA), Inc.’s contract with the county to operate the shelter ended Dec. 1, but GSA agreed to extend services until Volunteers of America (VOA), Chesapeake, Inc. takes over the contract on Feb. 1.

The shelter closure reduced the county’s bed space from 40 to 24 beds. The current $375,000 contract, which is for 12 months through Jan. 1, 2004, covers the cost of staffing two shelters with 24-7 coverage. The county closed the third shelter in early December, the operation there requiring another $100,000 in funds, said Cindy Mester, director of Housing Services.

“The goal has to be to reopen those additional beds because the service demands it,” Mester said, adding that the shelter closure would have occurred whether or not the county changed providers.

THE COUNTY INCREASED staff coverage to accommodate a rise in homelessness brought about by growth and to help provide for the safety of the clients, Mester said. “When they come to the shelter, they’re in crisis, so they need the staff support,” she said.

The shelters provides the homeless with room and board for up to 89 days, helping them regain self-sufficiency through referrals and by providing case management for education, employment and housing services.

On Jan. 6, the county began renovating the three shelters with paint and new flooring, funded through facility maintenance in the general services budget. The project is expected to be finished by March 1. The county collected donated furniture for the shelters and received nearly $4,000 from Leesburg Baptist Church to purchase additional furnishings that are needed.

“It is going great. I have a warehouse full,” Mester said.

As of Jan. 13, the shelter had 10 clients. “That’s lower than normal. I think that was our transition,” Mester said. “It’s hard to admit new clients and physically locate to a new house.”

Moving started Jan. 2 before the renovation work began.

VOA has operated the county's two Transitional Homeless Programs under contract since 1991. The programs provide housing and support services to families and single women for up to two years while they seek employment and improve their independent living skills.