LifeStyles of Maryland opened a new center in White Plains on Friday with the goal of helping the homeless population get back on their feet.
The opening of the center was celebrated by county leaders, legislative delegation members and even an appearance from Maryland’s First Lady Yumi Hogan, who spoke at the event.
The Oct. 1 ceremony was the latest effort for LifeStyles to assist those in need across the region.
According to Sandy Washington, executive director of LifeStyles of Maryland, the group started 26 years ago in La Plata in an effort to assist people in need, and the organization has grown since then.
“We run services from homeless services to food insecurity operations to transportation,” Washington said. “Our whole mantra is about help, hope and transformation.”
The newest center, located at 10453 Theodore Green Blvd., was the culmination of a two-year journey which started with a visit from Yumi Hogan to the area with her husband, Gov. Larry Hogan (R), in 2019.
According to Washington, that visit included a look at some of the homeless encampments where people were living, as well as a conversation with the governor about how to help people during the winter.
Washington said the group had planned to move into its current location, which had previously been operated by a church, and was set to begin operations when a zoning issue brought plans to a halt.
“We found out from the county that there was never a use and occupancy permit for that location, and we were told we weren’t going to be allowed to open there because if we did we would we breaking the law,” Washington said.
The zoning was later changed to allow for the shelter, and the center moved onto funding the project.
Washington said that $250,000 came in the form of bonds approved by the legislative delegation, with the rest coming from community partners.
Now open, the center has a host of amenities to help individuals get on their feet.
The location is a 24-hour facility aimed at helping families and the elderly.
“Once those doors open, they will never close,” Washington said.
The center has shower and laundry services for individuals to wash their clothes, and congregate sleeping arrangements for up to 50, though currently residency is capped at 25 due to social distancing guidelines.
A nature walk, outside recreational areas, and a training area for people to increase skills and hold classes to help people prepare for employment as well as veteran services are also available.
LifeStyles of Maryland has been active in helping individuals stay in their homes through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program.
The organization has currently spent over $600,000 in helping families stay in their homes, according to staff.
Other projects include weekly street outreach programs and running a homeless services center that provides services such as records documentation, warming and cooling stations and case management.