Outdoor improvements complete $8 million in upgrades to Baltimore's largest family shelter

Sarah's Hope, Baltimore's largest family shelter, celebrated the completion of $8 million in renovations Thursday, with the opening of green space and a playground to be shared by people who live in the shelter and the larger community.

The $1.35 million in outdoor improvements is the final piece of a years-long project to double the number of families — including men, women and children — the shelter can serve to about 200 a year.

Located in West Baltimore's Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood on North Mount Street, the project added landscaping outside the former three-story school building along with jungle gyms, benches and an outdoor dining terrace.

Mayor Catherine Pugh attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the shelter Thursday. After the November election, the new mayor announced her transition team during a news conference at Sarah's Hope. Pugh chose the location for symbolic reasons, saying work there showed Baltimore's potential to be "the greatest city in America."

The shelter is run by St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore. Murphy & Dittenhafer Architects and Mahan Rykiel Associates were involved in the improvements. The project was paid for with a mix of private and public funds.

"Walking into a home should be a welcoming experience; our goal was to transform concrete and asphalt into a green oasis that enhances St. Vincent De Paul of Baltimore's mission by giving families a place to decompress, enjoy each other's company, experience nature and most importantly — a place outside for children to play and be kids," said Richard Jones, president of Mahan Rykiel.

The previously completed interior improvements included family-style apartments, community spaces, a dining hall, a therapeutic nursery and classrooms to teach financial literacy, nutrition and life skills.

Other features of the outside space include a shade-covered playground featuring sensory play elements, water and native plants.

"The site improvements at Sarah's Hope-Mount Street truly transformed the existing unworkable concrete site into an inspiring extension of the recently fully renovated building interior," said Lauren Myatt, principal at Murphy & Dittenhafer.

"Through this project, the exterior has become a usable, engaging, and safe environment for the children and families of the facility to enjoy during a transitional period in their lives, as well as an important place for outdoor play for the surrounding community, which was missing in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood."

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