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John Schiavone, president and CEO of St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore, speaks Tuesday at Sarah’s Hope in West Baltimore. (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

Project brings some good news for Sandtown-Winchester

A recently renovated building sits atop a small hill in Sandtown-Winchester, surrounded on all four sides by foreclosed houses boarded up and decorated with graffiti.

Sarah’s Hope, an emergency homeless shelter for families, reopened its doors to the local community on Friday. After a nine-month renovation that cost $7 million, the shelter doubled its capacity, but its renovations aren’t stopping there, said John Schiavone, president and CEO of St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore.

“This new facility creates an environment that helps restore the dignity and spirits of those experiencing the trauma of homelessness,” Schiavone said. “This site really should be a site that would not only be a resource for the families served by Sarah’s Hope, but also one that would be a public asset to the local community, providing green space for community activities and contributing to the overall aesthetics of the area.”

In an effort to increase the sense of community in Sandtown-Winchester and reduce its paved outdoor space and stormwater runoff, Schiavone said that Sarah’s Hope partnered with the Parks & People Foundation to develop a plan that would reclaim the parking lot outside its front door through the planting of trees, shrubs and grass.

Grant on the way

And, as of Tuesday, June 16, the two local organizations secured a $75,000 grant from state and federal governments to help fund their project.

With the help of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Chesapeake Bay Trust’s Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Towns Grant Initiative, seven new projects in Baltimore City received money to create green spaces, plant native trees, and add pervious surfaces on local streets to help filter stormwater before it enters local waterways.

“Here in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, the story of the water is written on the land,” said Shawn M. Garvin, the regional administrator for the EPA. “What we do with our streets, surfaces, and public and private spaces influences the quality of our local waters and ultimately the Bay itself.”

The Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Towns (G3) Grant Initiative began in 2011 to expand  green spaces and infrastructure in urban areas that combat against storm water runoff, enhance the quality of life and water for the local community and the bay, and create green jobs throughout the Chesapeake Bay Watershed region.

‘Transformational project’

For Sarah’s Hope, the grant will help cover some of the costs to move the front parking lot closer to the street, add a bioretention area for stormwater runoff and construct a park area for residents and the surrounding community.

“This will truly be a transformational project for this site that has not only environmental benefits but physical and social benefits, all that we’ll use in years to come,“ Shiavone said.

The projects add green components to storm water management retrofits, such as increasing urban tree canopies and reducing impervious surfaces. The other eight projects receiving money from the initiative this year include grantees from Pennsylvania, Virginia and elsewhere in Maryland.

Tax-exempt groups, such as local governments and nonprofit organizations, from Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay watershed portions of Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia, Washington, D.C., and New York apply annually.