Recently there was an article published in the Herald Mail that exposed some criticism of the way transients and residents are housed at The Hope Center.
While we totally understand the concern expressed by the Chief of Police and others, we feel that the article was inadequate in actually telling the whole story. There are always two sides to every story and usually the truth lies in the middle. But in the case of this article, there were some important facts that were either forgotten or left out.
Please allow us a few minutes of your time to explain our side of the story.
We want to begin by saying that Hagerstown is our community, too. We all live in the greater Hagerstown area. Our families live, work and play here. We have parents, children, grandchildren, friends and neighbors who are valuable and important to us. With that being said, we would not knowingly put these precious people in harm’s way. Hagerstown is our town. It’s the place that we call home. This community is valuable to us, which is why we help our neighbors in need. We are here to help build a better Hagerstown. We are not here to ruin lives or put anyone in danger.
While making Hagerstown a better place to live and work is very important to us, it is also very important to us to help individuals in need, no matter where they call home. How can you turn away a stranger in need just because he or she isn’t a local? We’ve been called to help give hope to all people. Whether our guests are families, individuals, men, women, children, teens, homeless or hopeless, we are here to help get those at the bottom back on their feet, get their lives back in order and show them God’s love. We are not here to judge. We are here to help.
We do screen individuals who come into our facility as best as we can. Many times, transients and residents are sent to us by the court system, hospitals or social service agencies. We trust that the information given to us is accurate and up-to-date. We want to be a place which our local and state governments can trust as a real program to help repair broken and hurting people. We want to provide a service to agencies that want these individuals to get help. So when we are contacted by various counties, agencies or governments, we do everything we can to help.
Concerning one of the men in question in the Herald Mail article, our intake staff person talked to the Worchester County official about the man. In the desperation of the situation of trying to find this man some quick housing, some of the important facts about his crimes were not presented. Based on information presented by the county, we allowed this man to come in as a transient without knowing that he was a violent criminal. The same day that he arrived we were contacted by the Worchester County Parole & Probation informing us that he should never have been allowed to leave that county. We then contacted our local Parole & Probation office. They instructed us to allow him to stay the night. The next day we escorted the man to their office at which time he was returned to Worchester County.
Please understand that we were the ones proactive to notify local authorities about this man’s whereabouts. We have always cooperated with the authorities. We want to help everyone who comes into our facility, but safety of our staff, residents and guests is of great importance to us.
Unfortunately, Hagerstown has become a sort of dumping ground for guys leaving the prison system outside of the city. Since the state doesn’t return the inmates to their respective homes after release, many are left without options. They usually end up looking for a place to stay in Hagerstown. Many times they become transient or homeless until something works out for them. But the problem is that these former inmates are stuck in Hagerstown and often find themselves associating with all the wrong people. When inmates are released from the prisons, we try to help them continue their rehabilitation into society. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. It’s always up to the individual. We can only try to help. Either way, these guys are on the streets in Hagerstown. Whether we allow them to sleep in our facility at night or they stay somewhere else. These guys for a time are crashing in our town.
The picture has been painted that the guys who come through our program or stay as transient guests are all violent criminals. Sure, they all usually have a past associated with crime or abuse. But many people do. Here at The Hope Center we try to give each man the benefit of the fact that people can change for the better – that your past is behind you and the future can promise you something new. That’s the way God sees each of us. No matter what your social standing is. No matter what side of the tracks you’re from. No matter what school you went to or how many degrees you have. God doesn’t care what your income is nor is He impressed with your address. He loves people of all walks of life. He wants the best for everyone and He welcomes all people, no matter the sin committed, to take comfort in His forgiveness.
And that’s why we’re here. We are to be God’s love here in Hagerstown. We want to help all those in need. But we want to make sure that we are not hurting our own town which is why we notify local authorities about dangerous individuals. We don’t want to be known as an agency that doesn’t care about our neighbors and knowingly puts others in harm’s way. That doesn’t fit our purpose.
We are here to bring hope to people. Homeless people. Hungry people. Abandoned people. Scared people. Lost people. Rich people. Poor people. Old people. Young people. Good people. Bad people. As long as there are people in need, we will be here to help bring hope to them. And this service is done without any tax money. God provides our needs through churches, groups, schools, businesses and individuals. We are here to be a service to you and anyone who needs immediate help.
We understand that problems with crime in the city are very difficult challenges for the authorities and government to deal with. But we hope that each of you understand that we are here to help make our community better. We are working, thanks to generous supporters like you, to help our local authorities make Hagerstown a better place in which to live, full of hope rather than crime.