Howard steps up for homeless with land buy for housing [Commentary]

Howard County took an important step in the fight against homelessness last week by purchasing an 8-acre lot that will be the future home to a 30-unit housing facility.

Using $3.25 million in land acquisition dollars, the county bought the land at the corner of routes 1 and 32 to serve as a replacement for an existing shelter run by Grassroots Crisis Intervention in Jessup. A center will be built on the new site by the Volunteers of America Chesapeake.

For County Executive Ken Ulman and his administration, the move demonstrates a commitment to defeating a problem that might seem hard to believe even exists in a county as financially blessed as Howard. The truth is, the Howard homeless population was measured at 230 one day in January, with the majority of those living in the Savage and North Laurel areas.

While we applaud this step, we can't help but implore county leaders to do even more.

Ending homelessness is not just giving people a place to sleep. It's also about finding people jobs, medical assistance, counseling and access to education. It means helping people become self-sufficient so that their stay in these facilities can be measured in days, not months.

Current thinking calls for this new center to be built on 2 of the 8 acres with no specific plans for the remainder of the property, though a county spokesman said working with nonprofits could be in the cards. We hope that's the case. Building on this kind of momentum is what the county needs if it's determined to put an end to chronic homelessness.

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