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One of the county’s few facilities for the homeless and other at-risk residents was on the verge of closing last week, the latest victim of the economic downturn.

But the daytime drop-in center in Edgewood was given a reprieve by the church that owns the building where it is located.

For about seven years, the Welcome One Fellowship Center, inside New Hope Christian Fellowship United Methodist Church on Watergate Court, has provided daily meals, health services, a case manager and just a place to stay to hundreds of people.

Early last week, the shelter was facing the prospect of closing effective Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.

The shelter was scheduled to be shut down because the local nonprofit that operated it, Faith Communities and Civic Agencies United, Inc., or FCCAU, could no longer support it financially.

It now looks like the shelter will stay open for the foreseeable future.

New Hope’s pastor, Rev. Mark Groober, said Tuesday he plans to try to keep the center going, with the help of many other churches which had already been helping to run it.

“It may take it some time to build it back up to where FCCAU had it, but we certainly want to make sure the doors will stay open,” Groober said. “I know if this were to close, there would be some people who wouldn’t be able to receive a meal throughout the week.”

The situation does highlight, however, the choices groups like FCCAU, which has been a leader in working with the homeless in Harford County, are having to make in light of budget concerns driven by dwindling financial support.

FCCAU hosts the county’s only overnight homeless shelter, the Welcome One Emergency Shelter in Riverside, and its leaders say their focus is now on keeping that site, with its 28 beds, open for people in crisis.

Patrick O’Neill, president of the FCCAU board of directors, said the group gets money from private donations, government grants and private foundation grants. The Riverside shelter is in a building owned by the county government, which doesn’t charge rent, but FCCAU is still responsible for all operating expenses.

“Our funding basically across the board has gone down,” O’Neill said last week. “Because of that, we are in a budget deficit situation whereby we really need to reduce our programs so we can stay fiscally sound, and unfortunately, we had to make the decision to no longer financially support the great work going on at New Hope Church that we started.”

Besides a daily breakfast and lunch, the fellowship center at New Hope provides toiletries and other personal items, Bible study, case management, and an Upper Chesapeake HealthLink van with medical services and assistance for those trying to get a government ID.

O’Neill believes the center saw about 500 individual people this past fiscal year.

The center also once had as many as three staff members, but is down to one.

Despite FCCAU’s decision to stop funding the facility, that staff member still planned to stay on as a volunteer, O’Neill said.

“When people leave the shelter, they have nowhere to go. They are homeless,” he said.

The need to pull out of the Edgewood shelter is regrettable, O’Neill said.

“It couldn’t come at a worse time, with winter approaching,” he said.

Groober said he was not shocked by FCCAU’s decision.

“It’s just a sign of the times. Everybody’s affected by the economic situation,” he said. “People are not giving as much as they were ... The church will certainly step up and do their part.”




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