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Baltimore converts two rec centers into temporary winter shelters for city’s homeless population

Baltimore has converted two of its recreation centers to provide temporary shelters for women and couples experiencing homelessness when wind chill temperatures hit freezing or below this winter.

Mayor Brandon Scott said in a news release that the Greenmount Recreation Center in the Barclay neighborhood and the Robert C. Marshall Recreation Center in the Upton neighborhood will now double as winter emergency shelters when a Winter Shelter Declaration has been issued.

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Between the hours of 3 p.m. and 10 a.m. on days when wind chill temperatures reach 32 degrees and below, the Greenmount Recreation Center will provide temporary shelter to women and the Robert C. Marshall Recreation Center will give shelter to couples.

The expansion comes while the city is still housing hundreds of people in five hotels amid concerns that its congregate living facilities could spread the coronavirus without proper renovations and safety measures for residents and their staff.

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The city announced last year that it extended the emergency contracts with the hotels through March while it continues to bring two shelters into compliance with safety guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

City spokeswoman Sydney Burns wrote that the Recreations and Parks Department “already has a standard COVID-19 protocol in place with temperature checks and screen upon entry at both sites.”

She added that cots at the sites have been separated to comply with CDC guidance, occupancy is limited to 25% capacity and that referral calls for entry at the emergency shelter sites “will follow a standard COVID-19 screen process that has been in place since March 2020.″

“Expanding our emergency shelter capacity is only one part of a broader anti-homelessness strategy, but is essential for meeting the acute need that exists right now,” Scott said.

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Tisha Edwards, the acting director of the Mayor’s Office of Homeless Services, wrote that the city’s winter shelters “have consistently operated at 98% - 100% capacity,” facilitating the need to expand the number of centers open to the city’s population.

To access winter shelter services, call the Coordinated Entry Line at 443-984-9540 or dial 2-1-1. For more information on transportation to the various centers and what services they provide, visit the Mayor’s Office of Homeless Services website here.

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