Maryland YMCA campsite opens for families experiencing homelessness

U.S. & World

The Religious Coalition and YMCA of Frederick County are teaming up to provide emergency shelter for several families

SABILLASVILLE, Md. (WDVM) — Local non-profit organizations in Frederick County, Maryland have collaborated to help meet the needs of some of the area’s most vulnerable populations, including those experiencing homelessness. 

“If there’s an unusual out of the box solution, we’re going to come up with it. And that’s exactly what the camp is,” explained executive director of the Religious Coalition for Emergency Human Needs, Nick Brown. 

FULL COVID-19 CORONAVIRUS COVERAGE HERE

On the grounds of Camp West Mar, you won’t find summer camp kids or counselors, but families currently without permanent housing. 

Families like Lori Martin, her fiance, and three children.

Martin says she recently lost her job due to medical concerns. She’s epileptic and suffers from seizures that Martin explains can take her days to recover from.  Sick days continued adding up until she was eventually let go. 

“I knew this was coming because this has happened a lot over the last few years where, although I’m good at my job, my health is not,” Martin explained. 

After being unable to continue to pay rent for her home in Martinsburg, West Virginia, Martin reached out to the Religious Coalition.  

The non-profit, which runs the largest shelter in the county, was able to provide her family housing in local churches and hotel rooms. 

Brown says there came a point where even more space was needed to house individuals and families.

In a phone call with several local organizations, including the Ausherman Family Foundation and YMCA of Frederick County, Brown explained the need for added shelter space.

“There was a sudden up-swell of emergency grants and local foundations that really wanted to help out,” Brown explained. 

Chris Colville, president of the YMCA, had an idea for just the place.

“I had this kind of ‘ah-ha’ moment on the phone and thinking ‘We’ve got this Camp West Mar that isn’t being utilized to it’s full extent.’ In the next 10 to 12 weeks, we should probably partner with the Religious Coalition,” explained Colville. 

On Friday, families began settling into the Sabillasville camp site that is completely surrounded by trees, trails, and a lake. 

Their meals and essential supplies are provided through the Frederick Rescue Mission, Frederick Community Action Agency and many more volunteers.

Camp West Mar spans 72 acres of property and on-site there are five different cabins, all of which could potentially house up to 10 people. 

“We get out here and i’m like ‘Oh man, I love this,” Martin explained, “there’s hiking trails and there’s a lot of space for the kids to run around and go crazy.”

Martin says not needing to think about paying rent or paying for food has given her time to focus on finding a job in the hopes of having a place of her own.

“Things have kind of gotten set back because of the COVID-19, trying to find work and trying to find housing and everything. Right now this is the stability that we need, more so that the kids need because this is a lot on them,” Martin explained. 

The families are being asked to limit their travels and not leave unless necessary for work or additional grocery shopping. 

Current plans are to allow families to stay at the campsite until early June. 

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