It was the summer of ’69.
Well, we’re not exactly sure if it was in the summer, but back in 1969, a group of community residents, professionals, and students joined together to address the growing problem of drug abuse among young people in the community. In 1970, Grassroots received a demonstration grant from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and we were on our way. Back then, the primary services which included a Hotline and informal overnight shelter, were provided by a combination of paid staff and trained volunteers.
Throughout the next several years additional problems were addressed by the agency including family problems and suicide intervention. Outreach counseling programs to the county detention center and hospital were established, and other groups began using the counselor training program for their staffs and volunteers. The training program developed into a valuable contribution to community life. A TDD (telecommunications device for the deaf) was acquired in 1978 to make services available to the hearing and speech impaired community. In 1981, Grassroots began operating the Audrey Robbins shelter, thus improving the capabilities of the emergency shelter.
In January of 1981, Grassroots co-located with other non-profit service agencies to create The Harriet Tubman Center. In 1989, with County, State and Federal support, the facility was expanded to house a 20-bed emergency shelter and 12-bed transitional housing program staffed and operated by Grassroots. Fast forward another seven years to January 1996, when the transitional program for families was moved to The Miles House in a residential neighborhood in historic Ellicott City. The space at Grassroots vacated by the program was christened the Randy Sands Men’s Shelter, a 12-bed emergency and transitional program for homeless adult men.
In recent years, the Crisis Intervention Services have expanded to include a special program for runaways and their families, and a Mobile Crisis Team that operates in partnership with Humanim, the Police Department, and the Mental Health Authority. The team consists of two master’s level counselors who respond with the police to psychiatric emergencies and family crises in the community. The Crisis Services also include 24-hour hotlines and walk-in counseling for anyone in need of immediate assistance. Additionally, several agencies contract with Grassroots to provide after-hours emergency contact for their clients or to answer specialized hotlines.
In the fall of 2003, Grassroots led a multi-agency collaborative effort with the faith community to implement a cold weather shelter to address the problem of the growing numbers of turnaways for shelter due to lack of space. The program opened in January 2004 and continues each year from November through March.
In the late 1990s, we undertook a strategic planning initiative that determined we needed to expand our facility and services to meet the growing demand. The new facility on Freetown Road opened in 2008.
Major support for the Grassroots renovation and expansion campaign came from Howard County, the State of Maryland, the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, and federal funding. Foundation grants included leadership gifts from The Horizon Foundation, the Columbia Foundation, and The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation. Hundreds of local businesses, faith communities and individual donors also contributed to the campaign, accounting for over $1 million of the monies raised.
Which brings us to today.
Grassroots continues to grow. It opened an expanded Day Resource Center in the new Leola Dorsey Community Resource Center in 2017.Most recently, in partnership with Howard County Health Department, Grassroots increased its capacity to provide in-person screening to adults, youth and families dealing with substance misuse issues. Walk-in crisis assistance is available onsite daily from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. The location is accessible by public transportation. For information, visit HoCoOpioid.com.
Grassroots will continue to evolve as community needs arise, thanks to individuals, businesses, organizations and government support.