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Letter: Proposed apartments for homeless bad deal for North Laurel

The proposed 33-unit Single Room Occupancy apartment facility for the county's homeless in North Laurel is not the answer for Howard County.

This portion of Laurel has undergone a gradual revitalization over the years, including new businesses and homes peppering the once-questionable area.

My family had plans to purchase a property in this area; however, now that Mr. Ulman has decided to place a Single Room Occupancy facility in what would be our new neighborhood, we no longer feel safe moving there. His plan to provide housing for these individuals will only result in an increase in the homeless population and in crime in Howard County.

Criminal analyst, William Gaut, reports an escalation in crimes around homeless facilities by 138-221 percent. The term SRO comes from Skid Row in Los Angeles, still home to one of the greatest concentrations of homeless in the nation, incepted to accommodate the growing transient population working on the country's railroads.

When not working, these men often ended up committing crimes in order to purchase alcohol and slept in the streets drunk. Although shelters were put in place, these neighborhoods suffered, and residents considered them dirty and dangerous. Heavy drug use and the deinstitutionalization of hospitals that served the mentally ill in the decades that followed only exacerbated the problem.

Furthermore, consider the neighborhood of Safe Harbor, Florida. Since opening a new homeless shelter, the crime within a 3-mile radius has doubled including robberies, stabbings, and other major crimes. Researcher, Andrea Solarz, indicates substantial numbers of the homeless have been involved with the criminal justice system: upward of 62.4 percent had been arrested for "illegal behavior," while 44.3 percent had a history of incarceration.

North Laurel does not deserve being penalized by the standing crime wave sure to ensue by concentrating these elements in their backyard. Additionally, Howard County has better ways to spend these funds, perhaps on the construction of academic facilities for our children so students, who are housed in school trailers due to overcrowding, could be given the learning environment they deserve.

Finally, Mr. Ulman, how far is the SRO going to be from your home?

Jessica Grant

Columbia

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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