Mayor Breaks Ground For Shelter

August 11, 2009|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,julie.bykowicz@baltsun.com

Mayor Sheila Dixon ceremonially broke ground on Baltimore's first permanent 24-hour shelter yesterday, the centerpiece of her 10-year plan to end homelessness in a city where more than 3,400 have no place to live.

Dixon called the building, a former city Department of Transportation brick warehouse at 620 Fallsway in downtown Baltimore, a "gateway to independence" that is not meant to "warehouse" homeless people but will serve as a one-stop resource center where they can receive counseling and other help.

The $9 million project, named the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Housing and Resource Center, is slated to open about a year from now. It will have 275 beds for men and women, including 25 spaces for people who have just been released from hospitals but who have nowhere to go.

At the ground-breaking, First Deputy Mayor Andy Frank said the mayor spent considerable "political capital" to address the needs of the homeless, "a nameless and faceless constituency."

City officials said Mount Vernon was a natural choice for a shelter because of its proximity to downtown, where many of the street-dwellers can be found. The historic neighborhood is also home to other new amenities for the homeless, such as a soup kitchen and a health care building opening as soon as January.

After months of negotiations with the city, which yielded thousands of dollars in streetlight repairs, road paving and park improvements, the board of directors for the Mount Vernon-Belvedere Association unanimously signed off on the shelter.

R. Paul Warren, the association's vice president through the negotiations, said at yesterday's ground-breaking that the shelter was "a challenging idea for the community" but that residents realized "it was the right thing to do."

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