The Women’s Housing Coalition Receives a $10,000 Grant from Kaiser Permanente Youth in Action Program

The Women’s Housing Coalition Receives a $10,000 Grant from Kaiser Permanente Youth in Action Program

The Women’s Housing Coalition was one of four organizations chosen this year to receive a $10,000 grant from Kaiser Permanente’s Youth in Action program. While it is important to celebrate this funding and the programs it will support, what is even more important is how it demonstrates that when we invest in the children in our community, we are supporting our city and our future.

What is Youth in Action? This is a program where Kaiser supports (by funding the grants, the teaching staff and with scholarship money for the students) an after-school program in a high school where students research issues in their community by using photography. They then select an issue they want to invest in and do all the steps necessary to award a grant to a non-profit organization. This means that these students look at issues in their community, research the issue, write a request for proposal (RFP) and then get to make a $10,000 grant award.

The RFP we were invited to apply for centered on Mental Health for African American Women. Their photos highlighted female heroes who overcame addiction, survived domestic violence, work multiple jobs, etc. The photos also highlighted how amazing these teens are by helping raise younger siblings and dodging street violence and drug dealers while going to school and writing college applications.

The grant will be a large part of the support for our mental health support workshops and group sessions led by a dynamic therapist. Our residents now have access to weekly group support sessions, several monthly workshops and group acupuncture – all focused on managing anxiety and trauma and encouraging mindfulness.

The program that distributes these grants is just as important as the work they are funding in the community. Through Youth in Action, these high school students put together a rigorous RFP that looked at our diversity of staff, board, and clients served. It asked about the issues of our residents and how the program would support them. They looked at budget and effectiveness. They riddled us with tough questions during their site visit as well.

To say we were impressed by the ten young women who participated from Green Street Academy is an understatement. As juniors, our ten students plan on participating in Youth in Action again next year, and their partnership with us didn’t end with awarding the grant. They are planning a pasta night for some WHC residents this summer and hope to do something for our residents quarterly.

When we are so quick to jump loudly on the negativity around our youth, it is important to celebrate an unnoticed, beautiful quiet moment. Please remember this when people are ready to give up on the youth in our city. They are often juggling more than you know and are diamonds in the rough.

Learn more about the Kaiser Permanente Thrive’s Youth in Action program

Logo Creation: Behind the Scenes Process

Logo Creation: Behind the Scenes Process

Here at WHC we have been working on creating a new logo. A logo is the most visible piece of marketing for a company or an organization; it’s what is seen most by the public. We have been working tirelessly for the past year and a half on bringing our concepts to life. Like many of you, we had no idea all that goes into this process.

We learned a few things through this process. If the logo design doesn’t align with the company’s products, services, or message, then the public will have a hard time identifying with the new look. Every little detail matters when creating something that will speak for your brand. Colors had to be considered; size for our website, business cards and stationery had to be considered; deciding between a symmetrical and asymmetrical logo design and confirming that the finished product was the best representation of our brand took a lot of work.

So what makes a great logo? Great logos follow five key principles: simple, memorable, timeless, versatile,and appropriate.

Simple logo designs allow for easy recognition and require the logo to be versatile and memorable. Great logos are always unique but understated. According to Jeff Fisher, a design guru, “simple logos are often easily recognized, incredibly memorable and the most effective in conveying the requirements of the client.”

Memorable logo principle follows closely behind the simple principle in the idea that all memorable logos are simple and appropriate. American Art director, Paul Rand, advises that “ultimately, the only mandate in the design of logos, it seems, is that they be distinctive, memorable, and clear.”

The next principle a great logo should follow is being timeless. Timeless logos are designs that stand the test of time. Timeless logos stand out and are memorable for being classic. Think about the logo for Coca Cola. The original logo was created in 1885 and hasn’t changed.

Versatile logos are able to work across a variety of mediums and applications. The logo should be able to work both in horizontal and vertical formats.

The final principle a logo must follow is it must be appropriate. Appropriate doesn’t need to show what a business sells or offers as a service but instead needs to be purely for identification. Paul Rand states that “a logo derives its meaning and usefulness from the quality of that which it symbolizes.”

We are grateful to all those that supported us in creating our new logo. At DesignFest, which was hosted by MICA and sponsored by the T. Rowe Foundation, several design students and professional designers helped us sketch out some preliminary concepts and start thinking about the overall brand style. With the support of RedStart Creative, we were able to finalize colors for the logo. Designer Danielle Nekimken helped put the finishing touches on our logo. We are also excited to have a Marketing Advisory Committee that is supporting us in revamping our marketing materials with the new logo. It truly takes a village, and we are blessed to have an amazing village that supports us.

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.

Ending Tax Sales over Water Bills

Homeownership and renting a home can be expensive. Rent in Maryland for a 2 bedroom apartment is approximately $1,425 compared to the national average of $1,230. On average, renters and homeowners in Baltimore County spend approximately $139.68 a month on utilities. In Baltimore City, renters and homeowners spend approximately $380.69 and can run the risk of losing their home due to an unpaid water bill. No one should lose their home for a past-due water bill.

Senate Bill 96, The Water Taxpayer Protection Act of 2019, would make permanent, a current law that prohibits foreclosure tax sales for homes in the city with delinquent water bills. The General Assembly passed a bill last session that has been in place since Oct. 1st, 2018, but expires at the end of this year. A separate moratorium, put in place by Mayor Catherine E. Pugh, has stopped sending owner-occupied property to tax sale lists. No property has been foreclosed due only to water liens in the past three years.

The bill was filed by Sen. Mary Washington and supported by nearly the entire city delegation in the General Assembly. The bill would also stop delinquent water bills from contributing to a home or church’s eligibility for tax sale when combined with other past-due bills. Supporters of the bill say the problems with billing and increasing water rates in the city disproportionately affect black, low-income and older city residents.

Ending the ability for tax sales over water bills is a good first step; however, this doesn’t fix the hurt that those living in poverty feel since water cost in the city has increased and will be increasing by 10% each year for the next 3 years. It further incentivizes landlords to not invest in other water savings measures like low flush toilets, because they know their property won’t be taken away.