Howard County acquires site for homeless shelter, apartments

Howard County government announced plans last week to build 30 efficiency apartments and a day shelter for the homeless near the intersection of Route 1 and Route 32.

The facility will encompass about 2 acres of the 8-acre site the county purchased for $3.25 million.


The homeless shelter and apartments will serve as a replacement for and upgrade to the aging shelter located nearby off Route 1 in Jessup, which is managed by Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center.

"We are taking important steps to implement the Plan to End Homelessness, and this project is one of the most significant," Howard County Executive Ken Ulman said in a statement released May 2. "Howard County is not immune from these challenges, and we can work together to make a difference for these individuals and our community."


According to county spokesman David Nitkin, money for the land, which is located on the Savage-Jessup line, was taken from a fund approved in the budget for land acquisition.

The new day shelter, called a day resource center, will continue to be managed by Grassroots, according to Grassroots Deputy Director Deborah Popiel.

The housing component of the project will be developed, built and maintained by Volunteers of America Chesapeake, and will be housed in the same structure as the center. According to Nitkin, the project still is in the planning and financing phase, with a groundbreaking at least a year away.

The 8-acre site, which is located behind a Salvation Army Thrift Store, will be turned over to the Howard County Housing Commission, which will lease the land to the VOA.

"I am honored to be able to bring our expertise to Howard County and look forward to working with county officials and the community to continue to make Howard County a great place to live for all," said VOA Chesapeake President and CEO Russ Snyder in a statement.

Niktin said it is premature to discuss the future of the remaining 6 acres, but options could include future housing opportunities or nonprofit providers.

The purchase of the land is still contingent upon the completion of an environmental review, which is pending, Nitkin said.

The efficiency-style apartments will house one person each and will include a space for a fold out couch and a desk, which will serve as a dresser.


A Point-in-Time survey conducted in January found 203 homeless people in Howard County, which included 65 living unsheltered. The number represents little change from the 2012 survey, which counted 230 homeless and 82 unsheltered.

According to the survey, the majority of the homeless are staying in North Laurel and Savage, proximal to the proposed site.

However, according to Grassroots Executive Director Andrea Ingram, the number of homeless in the county is higher than the number indicates.

The current day resource center reported last month seeing 75 people a day on the three days a week it is open.

Beechcrest plan shelved

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Before selecting the Guilford Road site, the county had explored building the homeless facility on the current site of the Beechcrest Mobile Home Park in North Laurel. The land, valued at $1.6 million, had been acquired by the Howard County Housing Commission from Atapco Properties in an exchange for an adjustment to its MIHU (Moderate Income Housing Unit) requirements for the Howard Square Development on Route 1.


After opposition from residents of Beechcrest, who complained of being forced out, and the neighboring community, which raised concerns about increased drug-use and crime, the county abandoned its plans to build on the 5-and-a-half-acre site.

According to the news release, the size of the Guilford Road site "made it a better fit for the project and future compatible uses."

However, residents of the 38-unit mobile home park still will be relocated, Nitkin said.

Nitkin said the county has budgeted $1.6 million, the approximate value of the land, to relocate Beechcrest residents and that the park will be closed in four phases from Dec. 31 through June 30, 2015.

Nitkin said the money residents receive from the county will depend on their individual circumstances.

Regarding future plans for the site, Nitkin said the county is looking into developing a plan for the intersection of Route 1 and Whiskey Bottom Road.