Welcoming new neighbors

The Baltimore Sun

It may be hard to prevent the "not in my backyard" sentiments that erupted this past weekend among some residents of the Albemarle Square community, where city officials plan to open a temporary homeless shelter. Certainly, more advance notice and efforts to prepare the neighborhood would have helped - but the deal for the city to purchase the building was not finalized until about a week ago.

Now, community residents should take to heart Mayor Sheila Dixon's promise to beef up police protection inside and outside the shelter during its 90-day existence. They should also keep in mind that this shelter for up to 275 people per night may help alleviate the problem of the homeless congregating in a nearby church park - and that the shelter is merely another means to the larger goal of ending homelessness.

Approaching that goal will require some fits and starts while the city prepares to open a permanent shelter by November 2009. City officials have learned that providing a place for the homeless to come 24 hours a day, seven days a week and giving them intensive support services is essential to stabilizing them for permanent housing. And a facility that helps turn temporary squatters into long-term neighbors is in everyone's best interest.

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