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Edgemere Residents Opposed to Hosanna House Proposal

Catholic Charities of Baltimore officials say the program would offer a home and restore dignity to as many as 14 homeless men.

Catholic Charities of Baltimore plans to create a residential program on the St. Luke's Place campus in Edgemere for as many as 14 homeless men.

And Edgemere residents—at least those attending a small informational meeting Monday night—aren't happy about it.

The "permanent housing" program will be installed in St. Luke's Catholic Church's former convent, which is nestled between the St. Luke's Preschool and St. Luke Place, a senior housing complex, on Lodge Farm Road.

Benton Berman, who is the director of Holden Hall, a similar Catholic Charities program in Baltimore City, told about 25 local residents that the former convent is the perfect place for such a program, given that it has 14 individual bedrooms with what he referred to as "Jack and Jill bathrooms," a kitchen, living room, dining room and residential manager office space.

Some renovations will be needed to modernize the building, but the essential amenities needed are in place, he said.

Residents think Edgemere, an isolated peninsular community without public transportation and little access  to the type of resources needed by such a program, is the wrong place for Hosanna House, as Catholic Charities has dubbed the project.

Hosanna House would be "the worst thing in the world for this community," one woman told Berman and other Catholic Charities, St. Luke's Place and Baltimore County government employees in attendance.

She's lived in Edgemere since the 1960s and said the community has no need for something like Hosanna House, she believes.

Community members also took exception to the assertion that St. Luke's Place residents are all on board with the proposal.

"The residents are afraid of this, and they're afraid to say anything," one woman said of the proposal.

In response to community opposition to a previous proposal that would have had the program serving younger men, Catholic Charities officials now recommend creating the program for homeless men ages 60 and older.

The age change also changes the dynamics of the program, according to Mary Anne O'Donnell, director of community services for Catholic Charities.

"The employment picture is very different for seniors," O'Donnell told the group. "There might be people who would need to live here the rest of their lives."

Led by a director and a case manager, Hosanna House will provide permanent housing, job placement and support services for the selected men.

While the goal is to have the men achieve the highest level of independence possible and the ability to support themselves, that might not be possible for the older population, according to Catholic Charities officials.

Many residents are concerned about the proximity of the program to the preschool, the senior housing complex and adjacent private homes.

Others voiced concerns about the screening process and worry that individuals with criminal backgrounds would be "dropped" into the community.

Berman said, while the program may house those with mental illnesses or drug and alcohol addiction, no convicted felons would pass the screening process.

One woman said she heard that applicants must be drug-free for 30 days prior to being accepted, and asked Berman if that was true.

He confirmed it is true, and said that, while some men might struggle with drug use, that's different than a drug conviction.

Berman also said Catholic Charities has a "one and done" policy with regard to breaking the rules. Men are expelled from the program for breaking rules, he said.

After the meeting, Berman said Baltimore County officials told Catholic Charities leaders of the need for such a program in Baltimore County.

"The county said there's a need—they identified the problem and we had the building," Berman said.

Community members pointed out that the Archdiocese of Baltimore already owns two surplus buildings in Dundalk near St. Rita Catholic Church that would be better placed for such a program, with proximity to bus lines and an abundance of social services resources.

Catholic Charities officials said a future program may fit there.

The program, which will cost about $212,000 a year to operate, will be funded by a federal grant. Berman said he hopes to have the program operational by early 2013, a fact that doesn't set well with residents.

"So if the community doesn't want this, will it be shoved down our throats?" one woman asked Berman.

Berman said that decision wouldn't be his call, and told residents that Catholic Charities still has to be granted a zoning special exception to start the program.

Lodge Farm Road resident Justin Kirkpatrick is strongly opposed to the program being held directly across the street from his house, and expressed his anger that local elected leaders have already voiced support for the program despite community opposition to the proposal.

"I talked to [Baltimore County Councilman John Olszewski Sr.] and he's all for it," Kirkpatrick said. "So we know who not to vote for."

Berman promised to hold more meetings with community stakeholders.

Fran Taylor, vice president of the North Point Peninsula Community Coordination Council, said his group would be willing to host a community-wide meeting in early November.

After the meeting, Kirkpatrick said he would be contacting Olszewski again about the project and would remain vocal in his opposition to it.

"They come in here with all the answers they think we want to hear, and they bring in the top three residents from a similar program," he said. "We just do not want this here."

DHAMMER October 09, 2012 at 11:12 AM
Why not just Purchase a Home next to the Olszewski's,Sr or Jr and put them there? The Olzewski's are no Friends to the Communities in this area if it doesn't fit their fancy,and the Catholic Archdioces and Charities are no friends either unless it's going to put some money in all their hands.
Sandee Becker-thorn October 09, 2012 at 02:09 PM
I am with Darrell, put them next to Johnnie O
AmandaK October 09, 2012 at 02:43 PM
I think this is a wonderful opportunity for the community to serve the needy and less fortunate. It is a shame people are viewing this in such a negative light. Clearly the county and catholic charities have done their homework. If it doesn't work out, the program can always be moved.
Jimmy Thompson October 09, 2012 at 02:52 PM
Marge, this is very shotty reporting. You're printing heresay about what the Councilman said as fact without even checking with the source. Would it have been too much to have called the Councilman's office to ask for a comment? So, if I were to say I talked to Justin Kirkpatrick and he told me he is a tax scaffold, would you print that as fact without checking with him?
Kimberly S Averella October 09, 2012 at 04:06 PM
I am all for helping someone "down on their luck"...but next to a preschool? If my grandchildren attended that preschool...they would be pulled out!
Marge Neal (Editor) October 09, 2012 at 05:43 PM
Jimmy, Good point, and I plan to follow up with local elected leaders about this. This article was about what transpired at an after work hours meeting, and it was filed at 11 p.m. last night. No elected officials were in attendance at this gathering. When I quote any source that is given on the record, I am taking them at their word. If Mr. Olszewski wants to contest that he had such a conversation with Mr. Kirkpatrick, I would be willing to bet he would be the first one to let me know that.
Erin V October 09, 2012 at 08:47 PM
In case you all haven't noticed lately, Edgemere has a large growing population of 'natural born' individuals struggling with substance abuse issues. The men discussed in this proposal are no different; other than currently having zip codes that are not 21219. Just because someone has a history of homelessness and substance abuse does NOT indicate that they are an immediate threat to commit crimes against the individuals currently living in our community (children at day care included). If we're not seeing a surge in crime from our current population of individuals struggling with addiction, adding 12 more in need of treatment certainly wont make a difference. This is an excellent opportunity to show the community cohesiveness and compassion that makes Edgemere the small town it is. Remember, these men could be our sons, brothers, and fathers. Would we want them to be shunned from an opportunity at soberiety and shelter simply out of unsubstantiated fear from our community? No one deserves inhumane treatment because they have issues with substance abuse, regardless of whose back yard in which the issue is being debated.
LuAnn Meyer October 09, 2012 at 09:02 PM
This was not a total shock to residents at St.Luke's Place. Some had been.told a post methadone program would eventually go in there. It is troublesome, having a relative living at St. Luke's Place, that an unknown such as this would be placed this close. It is also near the preschool. It was short notice to residents there. Very disappointed in Catholic Charities.
Joe Dolan October 09, 2012 at 10:19 PM
I thought the worst thing that could happen tom the folks of Edgemere was the steel plant. Now that it is gone....
Al Day October 10, 2012 at 12:31 AM
Experience and training tells me this is a bad idea. And not for the reasons stated. Most of the homeless are the product of either mental issues or drug or alcohol use. And when lumped together into a small set, they tend to fall in line with the lowest level elements. In other words they tend to support each others condition in negative ways. It has been shown that to disperse these individuals in the general community on a single basis is far more productive and encourages them to do better. Use the federal grant money on an individual basis rather than a "one-size-fits-all" basis and they will go much further. What's more as they assimilate back to productiveness they can remain in place rather than be ousted which tends to cause recidivism. If the goal is to really help these folks then this lumping them into a small group should be discouraged.
Jess October 10, 2012 at 12:48 PM
I grew up in Edgemere and one of the reasons that I want to raise my children in Edgemere is because it is so quiet and safe. I think that putting this program in Edgemere is just asking for trouble. Why take people who have issues and bring them here? I want Edgemere to stay quiet and safe. I am against anything that has the potential to ruin that.
Jess October 10, 2012 at 01:33 PM
What are they going to do with the preschool building once all of the parents stop taking their kids there?
Ginger October 10, 2012 at 02:29 PM
Amandak Do you live close to the Hosanna House?? Once they put in this program you and I know it will never be moved. I'm more worried about the pre school children, seniors at St. Lukes Apts. & the community. I'm sorry about the 14 men who as Mr. Berman said may have some mental problems. These men are not going to be locked in the building but free to roam at will. I talked to some of the people at .St.Lukes Apt. that I know, all not for this. As for Johnny O, if it's true he's for this I'm very disappointed since I beleived in him. I will be calling him today.
Ginger October 10, 2012 at 02:41 PM
I don't want this program next to a pre-school, seniors, or the community. I have attended the meeting & this is not the place . .
Jimmy Thompson October 11, 2012 at 11:04 PM
Marge, thanks for responding. That said, your statement about officials reaching out to you implies that they are / should be looking for stories like this where other folks are allowed to potentially misquote them, and then hope to have the record corrected (if needed) after the damage is done? I have no idea what the Councilman's position is, but I'd rather read a quote from him directly than have any local news outlet "quote others quoting others," if you know what I mean. The story would have been just as informative if you noted Mr. Kirkpatricks' opposition and that he encouraged residents to contact the Councilman's office to express that opinion. Sure his position would have been a bonus, but that should be from you, not an interested party to the story. Pols do plenty on their own to make people angry -- no need to make it worse by letting others speak for them.
Junksmasher October 12, 2012 at 07:00 PM
Well think that this is a terrible place for it for one there is a pre-school a seinor home ( which my grandmother lives at) i do not agree with this. this i like puting a 10% or more crime in the community we do not need this at all. I have been to the meeting and everthing. I DISSAGREE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! VOTE NO

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