The Sarah's Hope shelter in Baltimore's Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood is considered by many an oasis surrounded by asphalt.
On Tuesday, state and city officials gathered outside the Mount Street shelter and described a future that includes greenery, play equipment and space to draw residents together.
Sarah's Hope, a 24-hour emergency shelter that helps find jobs and affordable housing for homeless families, received a $75,000 grant awarded through the Chesapeake Bay Trust through its Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Towns initiative, made in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Maryland's Department of Natural Resources.
John Schiavone, president and CEO of St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore, which operates Sarah's Hope, said the grant will help pay for removal of 94 percent of the asphalt that surrounds the shelter site, add playground space and a community garden, and generally "beautify" the grounds.
'What we didn't want to have is a great building in an island of asphalt, which is what we have right now," Schiavone said. "We want to make sure that the site reflects the same care and dignity that this building imparts to our residents."
The shelter was aided in applying for the grant by the Parks and People Foundation. Schiavone said that after permits are obtained, he expects the project to start in February and take six months. Additional plans will be made as more funding becomes available, he said.
Sarah's Hope was one of 15 awardees announced by the Chesapeake Bay Trust during Tuesday's ceremony at the shelter. In total, $727,500 was awarded.
Grantees from Pennsylvania and Virginia as well as Maryland were on hand, each presenting displays about the environmental projects they are working on to add green space, enhance livability and even promote "green" jobs in their communities.
Ten of the 2015 grantees are Maryland organizations, receiving between $10,000 and $100,000.
Among them is Blue Water Baltimore, a local organization that received more than $70,000 to plant 160 street trees in three low-income neighborhoods. Carl Simon, director of programs at Blue Water Baltimore, said that project is designed not only to beautify the communities, but increase the city's tree canopy and reduce urban heat.
For Sarah's Hope, the green grant is seen as a complement to a recent $8.5 million renovation that redesigned its interior and expanded its ability to house complete families. Previously, the shelter could accommodate only women and children.
The center reopened last Friday after completion of that project, and officials said the Chesapeake Bay Trust grant presents another opportunity for the shelter to benefit the community.
"I think this is definitely a step in the right direction as it relates to trying to restore communities and give hope to families and their children," said Toni Boulware, director of Sarah's Hope at Hannah More, another St. Vincent de Paul facility, located in Baltimore County.