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Community Opposition to Edgemere Hosanna House Remains Strong

Catholic Charities of Baltimore proposes putting a "permanent housing" program for 14 homeless men in St. Luke's Catholic Church's former convent.

Community opposition to the proposed Hosanna House in Edgemere is picking up steam, if Thursday night's North Point Community Council meeting is any indication.

About 45 residents attended to hear additional information and ask questions of Catholic Charities of Baltimore officials.

The Catholic organization is proposing the permanent housing program for as many as 14 homeless men, ages 60 and up. They plan to use the vacant St. Luke's Catholic Church convent on Lodge Farm Road, which is now owned by Catholic Charities.

Mary Ann O'Donnell, director of community services for Catholic Charities, started her presentation by saying that published descriptions of the program as a homeless shelter are inaccurate and she wanted to set the record straight.

Hosanna House will be a permanent housing program for people who are down on their luck for a variety of reasons, she said.

"This is not a shelter where people can walk in off the street and we have to take them in," O'Donnell said. "There is an application process, people need to be accepted and we have the opportunity to interview people."

Community residents had many questions, and voiced opinions about what they believe is the inappropriate placement of such a social services program.

They expressed concern about the program being in such close proximity to St. Luke's Pre-School, St. Luke's Place—a senior citizen housing complex—and other residential areas.

Benton Berman, who directs Holden Hall, a similar program in Baltimore City, said his program is close to a Head Start program, and there has never been a problem—in 20 years—of the men interacting with those children.

The Head Start director, who attended the meeting, said Holden Hall had been "nothing but good neighbors" in her experience.

She said the residents volunteer at the program, keep an eye on its building and help clear debris when neighbors dump things at the center's outdoor trash bin.

Catholic Charities has already been awarded federal funding for the program, and has applied for a special exception through Baltimore County to be allowed to start it in the convent building.

O'Donnell told the crowd that she called Baltimore County Thursday, and a hearing date had not yet been set.

Edgemere residents said there are no employment opportunities in Edgemere, nor is there public transportation.

O'Donnell said she and her colleagues acknowledged those problems that the Edgemere location would present.

Berman said money has been allocated in the budget to provide van service and drivers to get men from the house to bus lines.

The program aims to provide employment services, with the hope of getting the men jobs so they can eventually provide their own income and secure private housing.

With a senior citizen population, that might not be possible with all the men, and some could live the rest of their lives at Hosanna House, the Catholic Charities officials said.

North Point Council President Harry Wujek asked how many people in the audience have children in the pre-school program, and about eight residents raised their hands.

Many spoke of their intention to pull their children from the pre-school if Hosanna House opens.

With a student population of 53, it wouldn't take many resignations to cripple the program, Wujek said.

Berman said every effort would be made to draw from local ZIP Codes first when filling the proposed house. The area from which to draw applicants would grow as needed to fill the house.

"We would have no problem coming up with 30 or 40 men to fill a 14-men house," he said.

Berman said he would invite local residents to sit on the interview board when interviewing prospective candidates for the program.

In response to a question about what kind of guest visitation would be allowed  at the house, Berman said those kinds of rules have not yet been written. He also said he would be willing to consider community suggestions in that process.

He said, in response to another question, that there would be no curfews imposed upon residents; that they would be free to come and go as they please.

Men will have electronic swipe cards to enter and leave the building, so residents coming and going at odd hours would be noticed, officials said.

"By the way, this is America," Berman said. "Hosanna House will not be a jail or a prison—this will be their home."

One woman asked how many other programs were being considered for the site, or if this program would happen, "no matter what."

"At this point, none," O'Donnell said of other possible programs. "But it's not going to happen, no matter what."

O'Donnell said she and her colleagues would take this community input into consideration as they continue their talks about the project.

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John Tirabassi November 02, 2012 at 11:12 AM
My child attends St. Luke Pre School where this Hosanna House is being proposed. It seems to me from last night's meeting, Catholic Charities is forcing the public to challenge the zoning variance. That is going to be the community's only chance to stop this program. I suggest that every parent and citizen write a letter about their concerns and prepare to deliver this letter to the variance hearing. (Yet to be scheduled. I will be taking a day off of work to attend in person.) The citizens have voiced their opinion on this matter and so far it has fell on deaf ears. Catholic Charities mentioned they would welcome us to sit on their advisory board to interview candidates for Hosanna House. What makes anyone believe that our opinion would count then but now our opinions on its location have no merit? I would like to thank Delegate John Olszewski Jr. for taking the time to voice his opposition to the location of this Hosanna House and I intend to use any resources his office may have in assisting residents and parents with challenging the zoning variance. In closing, I am against the PLACEMENT of the Hosanna House, not the program itself. I am for helping our homeless but not in a building attached to a Pre School and assisted living. Catholic Charities said Baltimore County came to them with a need, yet no representative from Baltimore County attended the meeting. It looks as if we will need to stand united as a community and be prepared to fight.
Karyn Briones November 02, 2012 at 12:18 PM
I find it interesting that they "kicked" the assisted living residents out last year mainly because of the lack of transportation for the employees who assisted those residents, yet they now find a "grant" to transport these men. At no time has catholic charities even offered to ask the community what they would like. Evicting the assisted nursing residents last year and now opting for this is offensive I am a parishoner at St. Lukes and have children at OLH/SL school. I also find it interesting that all of this is happening now that Msgr Lizor is no longer in the picture. Catholic Charities, you are driving your flock away! Stop undoing what took Msgr. Lizor so long to do!
fred November 02, 2012 at 01:12 PM
it sounds like you don't want your child going to school where a program like this would be so the simple solution is to move your child to another school. i don't know enough to say whether this would be an appropriate location for this, however when an organization will do this for free and not cost the county citizens millions as does delegate olszewski's proposal it should be seriously considered.
JoAnn Srebroski November 02, 2012 at 01:55 PM
My 88 year old Mom is a nine year resident of St. Lukes Senior Apartments. She enjoys living there and my family and I feel she is living in a safe and secure environment. Hosanna House was an assisted living home when my Mom moved to St. Lukes. At a meeting for St. Luke's residents to explain their plans Hosanna House, a Catholic Charities representative had the audacity to say the homeless men could help them with chores without compensation. They should have reassured the residents the men would have no contact with them or their building. I'm sure this could be a wonderful program, ... at the right location. Between the pre school program, the senior apartments and the middle and high schools, the Hosanna House is not the right location. Why can't the assisted living return? If Catholic Charities needs a building for their program, let them buy one of St. Rita's empty buildings and that would provide public transportation to the men offering them more opportunities for employment.
John T. November 02, 2012 at 02:05 PM
There may be a need for a program such as this one and Catholic Charities may have a vacant building that needs to be filled, but the two do not belong together. Obviously, there are risks involved in our everyday lives, and this was brought up during the meeting by one of the representatives of the program. However, no one can justify adding to that risk, especially when the risk will be place upon 3 and 4 year olds. I know of no parent that would be willing to accept such risks for there children, especially children too young to care for themselves. This being said, I can only question the judgement of the people that represented the program at the meeting, and who attempted to change the minds of the parents of these 3 and 4 year olds. At the end of that meeting, it is understandable how parents could only be against this program that much more.
John Tirabassi November 02, 2012 at 02:11 PM
Fred, So your solution is that I move my child to another school? Great solution! I am so glad that this community has great thinkers like you to contribute for the better. First off parents pay 500.00 a month or more to have their children attend this school. Second, most of these children live in this area. Most will one day become contributing members of this community much like their parents are today. The last time I checked this school has been in place around 20 years. So your brilliant idea is to have parents remove/transfer their children to help home 60+ yr old men that not only do not have to be from this area, but could have misdemeanors, past drug and alcohol abuse, and who knows what else! What impact will transferring children in the middle of the school year cause? From your comment it sounds as if you do not care for the wellbeing of the children and are concerned for the wellbeing of out of area 60+ yr old homeless men. Can they stay at your house? Have you attended meetings supporting this? They are proposing work programs for these men and would provide transportation. Yes, as of today there is federal grant money being provided. What about next year and the year after. Guess who pays after that runs out? If this Hosanna House is put in place it is here to stay. Maybe when all the children are pulled out Catholic Charities can take over the lease for the classrooms and put 20 more 60+ yr old homeless men in. I extend an open invitation for us to discuss.
fred November 02, 2012 at 02:35 PM
is not the school and hosanna house owmed by the same entity( catholic church) they are the ones you have issue with yet you pay them to have your child at there school. if you support there school you support hossana house with your funds. the county provides free school for your child, without supporting the hossana house that you oppose. i am just saying you can't support one without in some way supporting the other because of the money you pay as do all others that give to the catholic church. stop giving them money.
John Tirabassi November 02, 2012 at 03:46 PM
Fred, my email is tirabassij@yahoo.com Feel free to send me an email. FYI on the economics... it is not free. Money has been allotted by Baltimore County to help fund this. If it doesn't happen the money goes back but it isn't free. I would strongly suggest getting the entire story before telling a parent what decisions should be made about their children. You should know that no government program is free. We all contribute and therefore our opinions should be taken seriously.
John Tirabassi November 02, 2012 at 03:54 PM
Fred, Our Lady of Hope/St Luke School is controlled by the Archdiocese of Baltimore, not Catholic Charities. St. Luke's Church is a separate entity from the School as well. The school rents space from St. Luke’s Church. That is the extent of their relationship. Our Lady of Hope/St Luke School mailed out a letter to all parents opposing the placement of Hosanna House at this location. I would gladly provide a copy of this if anyone is interested. This isn't a few parents whining and moaning. There are many residents of the community, parishioners, and even the School (Ran by the Archdiocese of Baltimore) against the placement of this program. I still suggest your attendance at the next meeting to obtain all the facts.
John T. November 02, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Fred. You really need to attend the next meeting, because this program will be at least partially funded by Baltimore County government. In fact, It must be enough funding from Balto. County for Catholic Charitities to be considering such a foolish use of their property. So Fred, in the end your tax dollars will be used for this, as will mine and the parents that send their children to St. Lukes Pre-K.
Al Day November 02, 2012 at 05:42 PM
This is so typical of the people in charge of Catholic charities. The lack of sensitivity alone speaks volumes. But the real issue is the welfare of the individuals who are homeless. Housing them in this manner will not resolve any issues they have in their lives. And the very nature of the character of some of these types makes such placement in a residential community highly inappropriate. Jesus said you will always have the poor. I interpret that as these folks will remain poor due to their poor spirit. I know in my current community the homeless have been placed into an old Howard Johnson motel that was converted by the government and charities. It is on a main highway with public transportation nearby. And those who live there inhabit the underpass nearby on a daily basis with cardboard signs begging money from passersby, even though they are fed and housed. I can only guess the extra money is used for alcohol and drugs. I never give them money but will pass along candy bars or other snacks. But the graffiti on the walls nearby is horrendous and gets worse with time. Law enforcement has been helpless in trying to keep these folks from standing in the median with their signs. Edgemere, get ready for an onslaught. The community will never be the same.
John T. November 02, 2012 at 06:21 PM
This is partially about helping others, but mostly it's about MONEY. Ironically, in their quest to help others, they are trampling over good people and their children to do so. Once you get past how crazy of an idea this is, and how far it has gotten and you think rationally, it is the MONEY that is driving this and nothing else. MONEY makes people do things that they wouldn't normally do.
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