BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The Baltimore Station, an organization that helps rehabilitate homeless veterans who have substance abuse or mental health issues, continued to operate through the COVID-19 pandemic thanks largely in part to a local hotel.

The group provides inpatient service using a cohabitating living environment not ideal during the pandemic. Now, all of the residents have their own room and bathroom and a new place to meet for treatment at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

One of the residents is Navy veteran Michael Wilder. He spoke to WJZ around the time he took a music therapy class.

“These classes help me and I know they help the rest of the veterans too,” he said.

Homeless, Wilder turned to the Baltimore Station for help after learning about their innovative treatment programs aimed at helping veterans.

“I was very depressed when I first came down being homeless,” he said. “I got to talk to a therapist, I see a psychiatrist now. I stopped smoking, I haven’t had any alcohol in 4 months.”

Wilder called his decision to join the program “the best thing I did for myself.”

A big part of their service is their residential program, and group therapies. The pandemic introduced a number of problems into that model.

“We modified the best we could throughout the summer, did a lot of social distancing but what we realized was with social distancing, it lowered the capacity to serve the homeless veteran from 138 to around 65,” John Freidel, the group’s executive director, said.

Not wanting to leave anyone on the street, they partnered with the Crowne Plaza Hotel in downtown Baltimore to give each veteran their own room and utilizing conference rooms for small group therapies — at no cost to the veteran.

“It’s a win-win because we’ve got the rooms, they’ve got the need and we get the privilege of partnering with a company that’s doing so good work,” said Adam Novotny, the hotel’s area general manager.

The Baltimore Station relies heavily on fundraising efforts, which took a hit due to the pandemic. On top of the added expense of the hotel, the group needs help more than ever.

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Sean Streicher