After months of arguments online and occasional debates during community meetings, Arbutus community stakeholders are scheduled to meet and discuss how to resolve the issue of homelessness.

Community members online — and at some meetings of the Concerned Citizens of Greater Arbutus — have blamed Matt’s House, a nondenominational church that has a drop-in center on East Drive. Critics say the resource center encourages people going through homelessness to linger in the Arbutus area, and fault Matt’s House for not keeping overnight hours.

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Michael Sparks, a legislative aide for County Councilman Tom Quirk, who represents Arbutus, said Quirk’s office wanted to host the community meeting, scheduled for Aug. 22 at the Arbutus branch of the Baltimore County Public Library, to act as a sort of moderator.

Sparks said by having a county office hosting the meeting there can be some rules and some structure so participants aren’t just “sniping at Matt’s House.”

“We’ve got to find a way where we can all work together to make Arbutus a better and safe place to live,” Sparks said.

Rob Benson, the head pastor at Matt’s House, declined requests for comment. In previous interviews, Benson has said his goal is for the church to “invest and make a difference in the community.” Matt’s House has previously helped to sponsor Arbutus Beautification Day and provided volunteers for it.

Sparks said he did not know what a solution or process that would make all sides happy could look like, but said a variety of stakeholders, including the county executive’s office, the local police precinct, the business community, Matt’s House and other residents have all been invited to the meeting to try and hash things out.

“I think it’s easy to point fingers or scapegoat," Quirk said, but “I think it’s important to have a community-wide conversation.”

Mike McAuliffe, president of the Halethorpe Improvement Association and one of the most vocal critics of Matt’s House, said he believes “homelessness and vagrancy [bring] down a neighborhood.”

“I’m all cool with their mission of helping homeless people,” he said. “But there cannot be any detriment to the neighborhood as a result of them helping or trying to help.”

The community meeting is scheduled for 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Aug. 22 at the Arbutus Branch Library.

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