Crisis center ready to reopen

The Baltimore Sun

After 18 months in temporary quarters, staff and residents of the Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center are set to move into their new $5 million building that replaces the nonprofit's cramped former quarters on the same site.

"It's a very busy time, and we'll all be quite relieved when we're into the building," said Andrea Ingram, Grassroots' director. She's been rushing from one crucial last-minute inspection to another, while coordinating delivery of furniture and planning for a celebratory ribbon-cutting today. The two-story structure is more than three times larger than the former building, which occupied the same site next to Atholton High School in Columbia.

It will be early next week before Mobile Crisis Team staff and administrators move in, Ingram said. Homeless residents will move in later.

Having the ceremonial ribbon-cutting first "is really great," she said, because "all the donors and guests can walk freely around the building" without fear of disrupting anything.

The center provides emergency help to people in emotional and psychological crises, including the Mobile Crisis Team, whose members respond to police incidents when needed. The new building will have 33 beds for women and children on the first floor and 18 beds for men on the second floor. A separate emergency suite can accommodate up to four more people, Ingram said.

"We had such inadequate space," in the old 8,000-square-foot building, Ingram said.

"There was no counseling room, no central kitchen. We're finally getting the space we need for the crisis services. We have up to 100 of these crisis situations a month," she said, which can result in new shelter residents who stay a few days, weeks or months.

"In the past, they've stayed in the lobby," she said. The new building "creates the space we needed all along for the work we've been doing and for a residential facility that could be managed well."

The 25,150-square-foot, U-shaped building also has activity rooms, private counseling and meeting rooms, storage space, a full-service commercial kitchen and dining room, and an outside patio and playground.

The building, financed by a combination of county government funds and private donors, was originally to be finished last November, but a series of delays kept the center's staff working in a county-owned house in Savage, while the residents lived in a rented cottage on the grounds of Sheppard Pratt's Ellicott City campus.

The opening marks the end of six years of discussion and turmoil over where to put a new, larger crisis center. Residents in different areas rejected the idea, and in the end, the old building was demolished and the new one built on the same Freetown Road site.

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