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Baltimore County opens new men's shelter in Catonsville

Baltimore County has opened a new shelter in Catonsville that officials say offers space, privacy, and job and health services for homeless men.

"It's cleaner, it's brighter, it's open," said County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, who is scheduled to host a ceremony Thursday at the Westside Men's Shelter on the Spring Grove Hospital campus.

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The previous shelter, also at Spring Grove, was a converted trailer that housed two large bunk rooms for a total of 110 men. During the winter months, shelter staff would put mats in the dining room to accommodate another 15, said Terri Kingeter, the county's homeless shelter coordinator.

That shelter lacked a conference room for job training and educational programs, private offices for counseling or meetings, and proper space for medical checkups, Kingeter said.

The new shelter, built for about $3.5 million, fixes those problems, Kingeter said. Shelter residents and employees moved in last week.

The previous shelter is to be removed to make way for a turf sports field to open next year.

The new shelter sits on land owned by the state, which operates Spring Grove as a psychiatric hospital. The county has a 99-year lease on the land.

The shelter has 150 beds split among three bunk rooms, plus a four-bed room for residents who require more privacy because of medical or emotional concerns. Kingeter expects the day-to-day population to remain at about 110, with more residents during the winter.

There is a conference room with computers for searching for jobs or attending workshops. Officials say a medical exam room will allow groups such as Health Care for the Homeless to offer services.

"Before, you'd walk around looking for a private space," Kingeter said.

The shelter is managed by the nonprofit Community Assistance Network.

County officials say about 550 people are living in shelters or on the streets on a typical night. The county gets about 40 calls per day from people seeking shelter.

The county is preparing to begin work on a new Eastern Family Resource Center on the campus of Franklin Square Medical Center in Essex. Officials say the existing east-side facility — a shelter for women and families, with health and social services offices — is cramped and out of date.

The county engineered a land swap with Franklin Square to pave the way for the new east-side shelter. The hospital gave the county land and $5 million in exchange for the current Eastern Family Resource Center building, which is close to several of the hospital's buildings.

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