From Mike Perrone, Jr., Harford County Council Member for District A:
I’d like to take a moment to explain the history and the intentions behind the emergency homeless shelter that has been proposed at the old Chase Manor Motel site in Edgewood.
Shortly after this County Council was sworn in, Councilman Beulah reached out to several members of the faith-based community to develop a more comprehensive and structured approach to addressing our homelessness problem in Harford County. This effort evolved into the “Hope for the Homeless Alliance”.
The Alliance first looked at a property in Aberdeen, which would have been prohibitively expensive to rehabilitate. The Alliance then met the owner of the old Chase Manor Motel site, who was willing to work with the group and accommodate its needs. One of the key members of the Alliance is a local nonprofit called New Journey of Hope, Inc. Ultimately, it is New Journey of Hope which would be purchasing the property and paying for the construction of the structures.
Before I continue, let me check off a couple of items on the list of what this project would NOT be.
• This would not be a “tent city”. These proposed structures are tension fabric buildings. These buildings meet hurricane compliance codes, have high energy efficiency ratings, and are built to last 20+ years with little maintenance. Mt. Zion United Methodist Church on Churchville Road was built with this material.
• This would not be a shelter at which homeless individuals are kicked out in the morning to roam the streets until they return at night. This would be a 24-hour facility.
Many people have cited this proposal as an example of the County “dumping its problems” into the Edgewood community. I look at it this way: the problem is already here. There are several true “tent cities” within Edgewood, of which many citizens are not aware. It is also worth noting that none of the current Harford County shelters (the Welcome One Emergency Shelter, Harford Family House, Anna’s House, and others) are in Edgewood. So Edgewood would now have shelter space, along with communities like Aberdeen, Belcamp, and Bel Air.
My vision for Edgewood is to have eventually a community that has no need for these types of services. Unfortunately, we are nowhere close to that point. And I do not think it is right to deny services to people in need (and say no to the ministries that want to deliver those services) on the premise that bringing a problem out of the shadows and into the open somehow makes the problem worse.
Ultimately, though, this process is not about choosing a community. It is about finding a suitable property and a willing property owner. The proposed site is not adjacent to any residential lots; the closest townhouses on Beckon Drive are about a tenth of a mile away. It is not in the middle of a commercial strip. The site is also on an existing bus route and accessible to the Harford Community Action Agency and other service providers in the community.
This process involves striking a complicated balance between the needs of homeowners, business owners, and our homeless brothers and sisters. The balance is not perfect, but it is the best plan that we could come up with.
Mike Perrone, Jr.
Harford County Council Member for District A