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Gentrification in Baltimore

Gentrification in Baltimore

According to a new study by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC), a Washington based non-profit, Baltimore is among seven U.S. cities that accounted for nearly half the country’s gentrification between 2000 and 2013. NCRC examined census data for 935 metropolitan areas in the U.S. and discovered gentrification was most intense in large coastal cities, concentrated in larger cities with vibrant economies. The researchers also looked at any corresponding displacement of black and Hispanic residents. Census tracts in Baltimore, New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, San Diego and Chicago accounted for nearly half the country’s gentrification from 2000 to 2013, according to the report. Of the 1,049 census tracts across the country that experienced gentrification during that time period, 501 fell in those cities, according to an article in The Baltimore Sun.

What is gentrification and what does it mean for Baltimore?

Gentrification is the process of renovating and improving a house or district so that it conforms to middle-class taste. Gentrification can improve the material quality of a neighborhood, while also potentially forcing relocation of current, established residents and businesses seeking lower cost housing and stores. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Health Effects of Gentrification Journal, gentrification often shifts a neighborhood’s racial/ethnic composition and average household income by developing new, more expensive housing, businesses and improved resources.

In Baltimore, leaders have caused gentrification to get worse by “acting to attract wealthy residents to neighborhoods rather than making areas better for residents who live there,” according to Carol Ott, tenant advocacy director for the Fair Housing Action Center of Maryland. The city had the fifth-highest number of gentrified census tracts, and the sixth-highest percentage of gentrified tracts: 171 of the city’s 679 census tracts were considered eligible for gentrification, and 22 percent of those neighborhoods experienced gentrification.

This data means that fewer and fewer affordable housing opportunities will be available in the communities that need it the most. In a city where nearly 1/2 of residents live below 200% of the federal poverty line, leaders should focus on improving a neighborhood without displacing people. Ott states that instead of focusing on “the people who live here now and not the people who you want to live here in 10 years,” that the city could “work to build more community centers and encourage the construction of affordable housing — for people who earn the city’s median income or under.”  

We here at WHC, feel that affordable housing opportunities throughout Baltimore are needed in order to fight the homelessness epidemic. Currently we are completing our strategic plan, which addresses how we can support this need and serve more people. One of the ways to address the need is to increase the number of affordable housing options in the communities that need it the most. Stay tuned for more details later in the year.  

Beth Benner’s 2019 Windows of Opportunity Speech

Beth Benner’s 2019 Windows of Opportunity Speech

Imagine that RIGHT NOW, everything you count on in your life is gone. Doesn’t matter how it happened. It’s just gone. 

You have no home to go to tonight. No credit card to book a hotel room. No friends to ask for help, because they’re struggling too So you have no support network. Or even if you did, you haven’t got a phone to call them or bus fare to reach them. 

Instead, imagine you’re looking for a place to use the bathroom, but you haven’t got the price of a cup of coffee in your pocket to “pay” for the access to the restroom.

Imagine you’re hungry. Imagine asking strangers for money to be able to eat, and seeing their faces glaring back at you. Staring through you. Ignoring you like you’re not even there.

Imagine you have nowhere safe to sleep tonight, because out in the elements, it’s not just rain and snow that threaten your security. There are other desperate people out there. You can be robbed tonight. Or worse. You’re hungry, tired. Sick. Scared.

Now add children to the mix:

  • How would you keep them safe tonight?
  • Feed them?
  • What would you tell them about what tomorrow will bring?
  • How would you help with homework when finding a meal or a bed is the first priority?  

Sadly, you would then have to do it all over again tomorrow.

I ask you to imagine this because the Women’s Housing Coalition is full of women who have actually LIVED this life. And there are more of them out there tonight on the streets who want to change their lives.

People who are 

Desperate to feel safe.

Yearning to take a shower.

Longing to have a bedroom door that locks.  

Needing to attend to medical issues that keep them from being able to participate in society in the ways they want

– in ways we ALL want.

I ask you to imagine this because YOU are OUR network that provides help. YOU are the people who make it possible to be the infrastructure that supports each woman here to be their own change agent. To turn her own life around. To be her best self.

The work we do here, our services puts the floor beneath the feet of women who have been ungrounded for far too long. Having a home begins the process of housing and health stability.

Before coming into our program, all of our women had been living out on the streets, in abandoned buildings, in a shelter, in a car. All of our women have had to deal with and/or are dealing with a disability. They’ve experienced abuse, addiction, mental health illnesses, neglect, trauma.

Things not even the most connected and financially stable among us could overcome without help.

At the WHC, it takes about $15,000 a year to house, rebuild trust and deliver the social work, mental health and physical health resources to help each woman here regain her foothold on life.

$15,000, for each woman here. It’s not much, in some ways. It means we have found super-efficient ways to keep a roof over her head.


Our WHC service providers help residents navigate their change. They:   

  • Help them sign up for Medicaid, education, job training
  • Find a doctor/therapist/dentist
  • Get glasses because she can’t see?
  • Start exercising to regain health and self esteem 

Many come to us addicted and traumatized, so our Case Management Team:

  • Finds treatment programs or an NA & AA meetings to attend
  • Has acupuncture available to focus on addiction and anxiety issues
  • Provides drug recovery support groups 
  • Offers behavioral health support groups
  • Delivers anger management and life skills coaching 

And we do it in a community of people who are going through the same challenges together.

It also includes help for the children in their lives, for example, there are:

  • Case managers to help advocate for a child at their school
  • Parenting classes that deal with safety, discipline, family goals and teamwork
  • Activities with organizations like Kaiser Permanente where residents & their kids attend this very museum and see role models and inspiring art

$15,000 per person, per year.  It’s not much to support the REAL work that happens at the Women’s Housing Coalition. Because that’s where our ladies are really the ones doing the heavy lifting in their own unique manner. They are:

  • taking classes,
  • learning to live with their medications (or without them),
  • dealing with the traumas that have haunted them for years and learning  how to live with them,
  • applying for jobs, getting jobs and yes, sometimes losing jobs,
  • reuniting with estranged family,
  • keeping their kids in school so they can graduate from high school to go out in the world and succeed on their own.

$15,000. A small number for such rich life-blood services.

But, at times, it can feel like a BIG number. Because these women and their families are counting on US to raise it.

And to be clear – federal government support isn’t the answer alone. We need LOCAL support to succeed in our mission.

We need our City.

We need the corporate community and foundations.

We need your friends.

We need you! 

Baltimore can be a better community if we invest in the people who society has left in its wake.

Imagine how someone’s life could be changed with $1,000. You don’t have to imagine it. Even a $300 donation will provide support for a week for one of our women – one of your fellow Baltimore residents.

Your support Changes a life. Actually…. Changes… A… Life… 

Thank you for making a difference! Tell people about us, volunteer, host an event at your home and invite us to talk to people you know, introduce us to organizations you belong to and, of course, financial support is always needed and appreciated. 

Be there for these women. We all need you.