City shelter will be a real asset to community

July 04, 2011

Regarding your recent op-ed on a planned city homeless shelter, "Not a home, not a help," June 28), we would like to share the benefits that the new shelter offers to our neighbors and to the community as a whole.

The new Housing and Resource Center set to open on Fallsway is not the sole solution to homelessness, but rather part of a comprehensive plan to make homelessness in Baltimore City rare and brief. Not just a "dorm-style" shelter, it is a place where people can access long-term housing options and services with the understanding that their stay will be short.

The center will provide housing and supportive services to 275 homeless individuals. There will be 25 beds for people recently discharged from hospitals who require convalescent care with nursing services.

Historically, the city operated a 24-hour "cold weather" shelter during the winter to ensure that people living on the streets did not die of exposure. According to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, homeless people are three to four times more likely to die than those in the general population.

With the opening of the new center on Fallsway, the quality of living conditions for clients in the program will be much improved. The center was designed so that clients will have better access to services on-site and in the immediate area, where other homeless service providers are located.

Public-private partnerships are what make this plan work. The city can't do it alone, nor can any one entity. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has been a committed partner who has been joined by many others to make the plan work, including the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, the Abell Foundation, the France-Merrick Foundation and CareFirst. Many more partners and the community at large will be needed to continue to move this plan forward.

Mark Furst and Helen Amos, Baltimore

The writers are president and CEO of the United Way of Central Maryland and chairwoman of the Journey Home Leadership Advisory Group.

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