Montgomery County to merge two transitional housing facilities -- Gazette.Net


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Montgomery County’s plan to move two shelters to the White Flint area will increase the number of beds available for men, but leaves one fewer bed for women.

Nadim Khan, chief of special-needs housing with the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services, said the White Flint facility will replace two existing transitional housing shelters. Bethesda House in Bethesda, which houses 15 men, and Dorothy Day in Rockville, which has room for 20 women, will be combined into a 37-bed shelter at 5320 Marinelli Road.

Khan said the county will rent the new building, which is currently under construction. He expects the current shelters to move there in six to eight months.

The new shelter will have 19 beds for women. Khan said the existing shelter has 19 women staying there now; the shelter is not going to kick anybody out during the move, he said.

“The shelter’s not at full capacity right now, and transition is going on anyway — people are coming in and out of the shelter,” he said.

Khan said the new shelter will have three more spaces for men.

“There are more men in our transitional shelters, and there’s more pressure to serve men,” he said.

The women’s part of the new shelter will have single beds instead of bunk beds, like the Dorothy Day shelter has. Khan said the single beds will be safer than bunk beds.

“Even if we have one less bed, it’s a safer environment,” he said.

The new building also will have more space for programs and activities during the day, as well as shared kitchens and shared dining halls, Khan said.

Catholic Charities, which operates the existing shelters, also will operate the new shelter, Khan said.

Eric Salmi, director of communications for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, said his organization supports combining and relocating the shelters.

“It’s not going to change anything in the way the two shelters operate and the population they serve,” he said.

Khan said combining the two shelters should help the county save money and make services more effective.

“The day programs are going to be more robust because there’s more space available,” he said.

Lindsay Hoffman, executive director of Friends of White Flint, said the organization has a few questions about the shelter that haven’t been answered yet because the plans were just announced, such as what services would be offered during the day.

“We have no objections to a well-run facility being run in White Flint,” she said.

In January, volunteers counted 1,004 homeless people living in Montgomery County, according to a report from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

Montgomery County’s Department of Health and Human Services has 11 shelters with 95 beds for families and 130 beds for individuals, said Mary Anderson, a county spokeswoman. During the winter, the county opens up an additional 244 beds, and it also has provided hotel rooms for families when the family shelters have run out of beds, she said.

ewaibel@gazette.net