An old brick school building on the west side of Baltimore today offers 150 beds to the city’s homeless families, double the number it held a few years ago. On the east side, an expanded resource center now provides 300 people a day with both meals and pathways out of poverty.
The common thread?
Murphy & Dittenhafer Architects, and, in particular, the firm’s long commitment to projects across Baltimore that boost both Charm City’s beauty and its benevolence. It’s a tradition that makes employees proud.
“It’s almost like there’s a higher reason for what you’re doing on those projects,” said Lauren Myatt, Principal at Murphy & Dittenhafer Architects. “You’re helping to create a positive change for people and the community.”
Commitment from community stakeholders
More than half a million people were found to be homeless in the United States on a single January night last year, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
It’s a statistic that stands out to the organizers of “The Journey Home,” a Baltimore-based organization that strives to make homelessness a rare and brief experience in the city.
Combating that statistic requires commitment from all community stakeholders – and it’s a struggle that Murphy & Dittenhafer Architects has been passionate about defeating.
Murphy & Dittenhafer Architects was one of several sponsors of this year’s "An Evening of Unexpected Delights,” an annual fundraiser to benefit The Journey Home. The event, which featured musical guests “The Roots” and Leslie Odom Jr. of "Hamilton,” was a reminder of how the Baltimore community can rise above with the support of the private sector.
A way to start again at Sarah’s Hope
Too often, homeless men and their families in Baltimore have nowhere to go.
That was part of the drive for the recent renovation and expansion of the Sarah’s Hope family shelter in Sandtown-Winchester. The $8 million project sought to transform the old school building, built in the 1930s, providing interior and exterior renovations and growing it into the largest family shelter in the city of Baltimore.
“It was exciting, but it was also very challenging,” Myatt said. “We tried to incorporate a lot of smart, cost-effective solutions.”
Inside, the building needed a more modern and dignified look, and the new layout included use of the two upper floors of the building, previously not utilized. Outside, Murphy & Dittenhafer’s design brought improved accessibility, large areas of green space and better lighting and landscaping.
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More services will be offered to both parents and children, and the large expansion will mean that the shelter, which is run by St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore, can now serve about 200 families each year.
“Murphy and Dittenhafer were a valuable part of the development team for the new Sarah’s Hope family shelter,” said John Schiavone, President & CEO of St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore. “Their creative approach allowed for the adaptive reuse of a former school building and created what is now a warm, welcoming, temporary home for homeless families that has been transformative for the program.”
The design even included space for two new playgrounds – recently completed with the help of 200 community volunteers.
“It’s nice to think those children will now get to do the things all children should be able to do,” Myatt said.
Filling bellies at Beans and Bread
Just a few years back, demand at a day resource program in East Baltimore had outgrown the historic building in which it was housed. The local homeless couldn’t get all the services they needed.
For Myatt, work at the “Beans and Bread” building in Fells Point represented the intersection of two interests: community-centered projects and historical preservation. The subsequent design included interior renovations and a large addition to the existing building, one that kept the integrity of the original site while seamlessly incorporating a new space for expanded services.
“The neighborhood took a real interest, and we wanted to make sure everything fit just right,” Myatt said.
Today, volunteers with the program serve 300 meals daily, and those in need receive health care and help with hygiene. The site offers laundry services and telephone access, and staff provides employment services and housing referrals.
A helping hand is being offered to more people than ever.
Look across Baltimore and you’ll find Murphy & Dittenhafer’s work stitched with care into the fabric of the city.
And whatever the project – from nonprofits to churches to museums—when there’s an element of community involved, Myatt said, the desire to get everything just right is even greater than usual.
Because you know how much it might mean to someone.
“These are landmarks for people, places they might visit at great points or not so great points in their life,” she said. “To work on places like that where you know how much it will matter is just exceptionally rewarding.”