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Finding Permanent Housing in Baltimore

Finding Permanent Housing in Baltimore

There is a long waiting list of people who are in need of permanent housing. The Women’s Housing Coalition works with Baltimore City and local landlords to help serve as many individuals and families as possible. In addition to our Single Room Occupancy buildings, the Women’s Housing Coalition works with Baltimore City and local landlords to fill units in what we call our “scattered sites.” 

Whenever we have a vacancy in our units, we contact this City who sends over the person’s name who is seeking permanent housing and at the top of their waitlist. We work with the potential resident to find everything they would need in a home. There are many factors we consider when finding a place for a new individual or family to live. This includes, whether they are able to use stairs, how many children they have, how many bedrooms they need, what school district they need to be a part of, whether they need to be close to a certain bus line, if they need to stay away from a certain area due to their past, and anything else they may need when considering where they want to live. Once we get all of this information, we look for open listings throughout the City and find 2–3 apartments or rowhomes that meet every need they have specified.  

Once the resident makes a choice on which unit they like best, we begin to work with the landlord.  We explain our program and how we work closely with each resident to meet certain goals. WHC then signs the master lease for the apartment and subleases it to the new resident. We do this so that the resident cannot be denied the rental based on income qualifications. The unit is then subject to an inspection by the City and once it passes, our new resident(s) can move in.   

Every scattered site resident is encouraged to attend programming at our buildings and form relationships with our other clients. We are also there to help with children, creating an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) to hold the children accountable for their schoolwork, and attending any meetings at the school that the parent and child would like support with. Scattered site residents are also required to meet with their Case Managers twice a month in order to stay on track with meeting their goals, just like those in our buildings. 

The Women’s Housing Coalition has been serving Baltimore for 40 years and will continue working closely with Baltimore City to gain more sites and help more people.  We need your donations more than ever to serve our residents in this uncertain time. You can make a $50 donation and feed an individual for two weeks or a $100 donation and feed a family for two weeks.

An Interview with Jane Harrison

An Interview with Jane Harrison

The Women’s Housing Coalition is celebrating 40 years of helping to create stability for individuals and families. Our success in serving Baltimore is thanks to the founders, like Jane Harrison who also served as the first Executive Director. Our founders were women who saw a need in our community and pulled their talents together to create a solution. After a personal tragedy, Jane Harrison felt called to do something different with her life, something more “socially conscious,” and she threw her energy into women’s housing. Her passion has led her to become a well-known advocate for supporting women and ending homelessness.

When asked what she thought had contributed to so many women participating in WHC over the years Jane responded, “The backdrop was the energy which emerged as WHC was a fledgling women’s movement gaining momentum in the early 1980s. Issues which were labeled ‘women’s issues’ were coming into being as areas for improvement, and there was a growing articulation among women and women’s groups. The striking issues at the time – which produced a lot of outrage – were domestic violence and homelessness. Until that time, homelessness was seen mostly as an issue of vagrant men. These are the things that brought women together.”

“Advocacy brought the first dedicated group of women together who founded the Women’s Housing Coalition in 1980. The unifying force that kept us together was that each of us was witnessing, in our daily work, growing numbers of women without homes, without any means on which to live, very often in poor health, both physically and emotionally, and frequently at risk for violence and certainly contempt from passersby. Working with then Delegate Anne Perkins, we helped shepherd the very first state funds to establish a women’s shelter, created in the downtown Baltimore YWCA. Thereafter, over the next few years we established and ran three transitional houses for homeless women in west Baltimore and pursued a dream of establishing Maryland’s first Single Room Occupancy. The dream finally came to fruition in the early 90s with the opening of the Calverton on 25th Street in Baltimore.

“I keenly remember when working in one of our early transitional houses an incident that will be forever in my mind. I had invited one of our residents, a former librarian who struggled with mental illness and had become homeless, to testify in Annapolis about her experience of being unsheltered on the streets of Baltimore. She willingly and courageously agreed. To my shock when I came to pick her up, her usually neat appearance was radically transformed – disheveled hair, smudged makeup and clothes askew. When I asked her what had happened, she explained that she felt that she had to look like a homeless woman in order to testify. I would not presume to interpret the multiple tragic and saddening layers of meaning exemplified by this poignant incident. We arrived at an understanding that her everyday appearance was more than fine, and she testified to great effect. I have rarely experienced such a depth of anger and sorrow that our wealthiest of nations countenances the suffering and robbing of dignity that our homeless citizens endure.”

With the framework the founders created, the WHC has been able to grow and expand to serve more people with the support of donors, volunteers, and outstanding leadership. We need your donations more than ever to serve our residents in this uncertain time. You can make a $50 donation and feed an individual for two weeks or a $100 donation and feed a family for two weeks.

The Historic Linden House

The Historic Linden House

The historic Linden House was built in 1886 and was the home of David Bachrach and his family for many years.  Mr. Bachrach was a prominent commercial and portrait photographer who built the house nearly two decades after he photographed Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg at the time of his Gettysburg Address. His brother-in-law, Ephraim Keyser, who headed the Maryland Institute College of Art’s Rinehart School of Sculpture, had his sculptor’s studio at the rear of the property, where it remains and has also been handsomely renovated. The Women’s Housing Coalition has renovated the main house and a detached former studio into five affordable apartments.

We, at Women’s Housing Coalition, partnered with Episcopal Housing Corporation to renovate this Reservoir Hill landmark, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Linden House allows Women’s Housing Coalition to provide housing and work with five women and children who were homeless who want to take control of their lives and need help to lead stable lives for the rest of their lives. The home has been reconfigured, with four affordable apartments in the main residence and another in the Keyser sculpture studio.

The house was designed by the prolific Baltimore architect George Frederick, who gave us our City Hall and many other landmarks, including St. James the Less Roman Catholic Church in East Baltimore. A large handsome late 1880’s wooden structure, this house is 6,200 square feet, including the backyard art studio. Its sheer size, nearly twice the size of other Baltimore homes in the area, contributed to its list of vexing rehab issues. Normally we build in brick, but the house was built of wood covered with wood siding. After years of sitting abandoned, the wood rot was considerable. “It was in horrible, horrible condition. Nobody knew what to do with it,” said Mark Sissman, director of Healthy Neighborhoods. “There were enough pieces of the original staircase left to duplicate it,” said Daniel McCarthy, executive director of Episcopal Housing, who was a consultant for the restoration. Bits of the interior wood finish survived — in pieces. All were painstakingly copied and reinstated in this thoughtful and well-funded restoration. The Linden House can now serve as a model for restoration, neighborhood stabilization, and effective supportive housing.  The renovation was funded by Healthy Neighborhoods, Inc., with the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, two funds under the federal American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, and the France-Merrick Foundation. Through this support and the guidance of Baltimore City’s Commission for Historical & Architectural Preservation, this long-neglected historic home was preserved, such that it awarded the 2014 Baltimore Heritage Renovation and Restoration Award.

Looking Toward the Future

Looking Toward the Future

2019 was a big year for the Women’s Housing Coalition. For the first time in over ten years, we were able to add more units. Expanding from 98 to 108 households has given 25 families and 83 individuals a place to call home. 

In partnership with Kaiser Permanente, our residents were able to go to the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African-American History & Culture on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The partnership also provided residents with the opportunity to access tools they will need for career success with professional headshots, a pop-up thrift store, resume/job readiness workshop, and motivational speakers.

Events like this along with our ongoing life skills programming that focuses on mind and body health help ensure that our residents have all of the support and experience they need to create goals and meet them. 

Inside the Women’s Housing Coalition we also had some exciting changes to make sure we are meeting the needs of our growing number of residents. We have new staff members, including a part-time Case Manager and an Inspection Coordinator who is bridging the gap between Case Managers and inspections that we must comply with through the City. Our residents often struggle with having the skills to maintain their home, working with their landlords to get repairs completed, or letting strangers into their homes. The Inspection Coordinator is working closely with them and their Case Managers to build trusting relationships that will make this process easier on them and avoid triggering trauma. 

You may have noticed that the WHC also received a brand refresh to help us grow awareness for our organization! We designed a new logo and color scheme to freshen up our marketing at DesignFest, which was hosted by The Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) and sponsored by the T. Rowe Price Foundation.

Our new and improved website launched in June and shares our mission, resident success stories, and makes supporting the WHC easy for our donors.

We look forward to 2020 with high hopes for even more growth as we celebrate our 40th year of helping to end the cycle of homelessness. 

We invite you to help us celebrate at our annual event, Windows of Opportunity,  on April 1st from 6:30 – 9:30 p.m. at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum.

As we reflect on all we’ve accomplished over the last 40 years, we are hopeful for a future where every person has access to safe, affordable housing.

The Women’s Housing Coalition is Celebrating 40 Years!

The Women’s Housing Coalition is Celebrating 40 Years!

It’s time to celebrate!  The Women’s Housing Coalition is commemorating 40 years of providing housing support to individuals and families who have experienced the trauma of homelessness. 

For 40 years we have supported our residents as they regain their self-confidence, and acquire the life skills necessary for them to become stably housed and provide a safe and enriched environment for their children to thrive and excel.

It is the generosity of organizations, foundations and individuals like you that enables us to provide housing, case management, and other vital services to the most vulnerable in our communities.  

Our 40th Anniversary Gala celebration will take place in the wonderful Reginald F. Lewis Museum on Wednesday, April 1st, 2020, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.   

We are asking for your support as we take this opportunity to recognize MaryAnn Scully, (President, Howard Bank) for her commitment to ensuring all women have a seat at the table and Carol B. Payne (HUD Baltimore Field Office Director) for her commitment to ensuring there are more and bigger tables for all women to be seated at.

It is only through your help that we are able to change people’s lives by working with our clients to end housing instability. 

Thank you for your continued support.

The Spirit of Giving

The Spirit of Giving

The holiday season is a time for being with family and enjoying the magic of Christmas on little one’s faces. For many, the holiday season is the hardest time of the year.

What would you do if you had nowhere to sleep? How do you explain why there is no Santa for your children?

According to the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, approximately 2,669 men, women, and children in Baltimore City are homeless on any given night.

This year we are thankful for all of our volunteers and donors who have helped us create stability for 83 individuals and 25 families have a place to call home this holiday season.

“Me, my husband, my two sons, and my grandson were all living in the same home.  I knew that if something happened to my husband that we wouldn’t be able to afford rent.  He was really sick, and that’s what happened.  

I went to a shelter that had a 30-day stay.  I ended up staying there for 3 months because they liked my attitude.  A lot of girls would come in and their spirits were broken and I had that uplifting thing.  I like to make people laugh so I kept them laughing and they kept me around.  

I went to stay with my mom, from my mom I went and stayed in my storage unit.  I stayed in my storage unit for about a year and a half, maybe two years. I found a social worker who helped me.  She was the best; she was only supposed to help me one year but she helped me two years because she liked my attitude.  She got me into the Bennett House. Once I got that key in my hand I said ‘nothing is ever gonna be the same’ and it hasn’t.  

That was three years ago.  I’m ready to get out there and do it on my own.  With my husband, I was with him for 32 years, I never had to pay a bill.  Once I got here it taught me the responsibility of, you have to pay your rent, you have to buy your own food.  I’ve learned how to budget my money…”

“I like the women at the Bennett House.  There’s always good ones… Veronica is a gem.  When they put her in here they knew what they were doing.  She’s like a mentor. She makes sure that you pay your rent every month.  She knows that was something hard for me to do, to pay my rent, because I never had to do that before…”

“To me, WHC has been the greatest experience of my life.  And I’ve had some good experiences and I’ve had some bad; this is the greatest.  It helped me plant my feet and it gave me stability. I’ve grown a lot and I’ve learned a lot.” – Christine

There is a long waitlist for people who housing in programs like the Women’s Housing Coalition. With your help, we can continue to grow and help more people individuals and families have many happy holidays to come.

Make a donation today: https://squareup.com/store/womens-housing-coalition

Every Person Has Value

Every Person Has Value

Imagine feeling like you aren’t someone of value to society. People pass by but never look at you. You have been homeless for several years, moving from shelter to shelter and from friend’s house to friend’s house. You are running out of options. It is not safe staying outside alone. What would you do? Would you continue the daily trudge of moving night after night? How long can you keep this up?

In Leslie’s case, she was able to get housing and supportive services here at the Women’s Housing Coalition where she found hope and friends who cared. She discovered programming to help her grow in spirit and in stability. With the help of her case manager, Leslie started setting goals, then…meeting them. Now that she’s working a few days a week, she dreams of having her own place. With your support, we can help women like Leslie find value and achieve their dreams. “Women’s Housing Coalition gave me my life back, they really did: with the structure, with letting me see that I can be someone. I’m not just a homeless older lady; I am somebody. That’s what WHC brought back tome.” – Leslie

For Christine, losing her husband to a severe illness put her and her sons out on the streets. She was able to find housing for her sons, but she began bouncing from relative to relative until her only option was to live in her storage unit. Thankfully, Christine found WHC. Here she learned how to budget her money and use her case manager as a mentor in responsibility. She found value. With your help, women like Christine can get back on their feet and find value. “To me, WHC has been the greatest experience of my life…It helped me plant my feet and it gave me stability. I’ve grown a lot, and I’ve learned a lot.” – Christine

Because of supporters like you, for the first time in over ten years, we expanded our housing and supportive services from 98 to 108 households. That’s 10 more opportunities for people experiencing homelessness to regain their value. 83 individuals (like Leslie and Christine) and 25 families have a place to call home this holiday season. Because of you, we are able to provide them with the tools to find stability. Our hope is that all of our residents will begin to recognize that they are more than the situation they were in. They are more than someone who experienced homelessness. They are somebody! They have value!

With your support, we can make our hope a reality.

Make a donation today:https://squareup.com/store/womens-housing-coalition

Senseless Violence in Baltimore City – Getting People the Support They Need

Senseless Violence in Baltimore City – Getting People the Support They Need

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 470,000 homicides occur globally each year. If you take into account suicide and war-related deaths, the number rises to over 1.6 million violence-related deaths. Millions more suffer violence-related injuries and trauma. 

Some of the dominant risk factors for violence are social disruption, poverty, poor interpersonal dynamics, insecurity, societal acceptance, and power imbalance. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention uses the Social-Ecological Model to understand the factors that influence violence. This model shows that tragic acts of violence often rise from the complex interplay between individual, relationship, community, and societal factors. 

Individual factors that contribute to someone’s ability to be violent include age, education, income, substance use, or history of abuse. When identifying relationship factors, one looks at how a person’s close relationships influence their behavior and contribute to their experience. Settings, such as schools, workplaces, and neighborhoods, create the community factors that impact someone’s tendency towards violence. To identify societal factors, one looks at social and cultural norms that support violence as an acceptable way to resolve conflicts. 

Many cities that face high rates of violence are finding a way to create safer environments. They’re implementing policies and strategies that encourage mentoring for young children that actively engage communities in building solutions, and that create effective, accessible mental health services. The Group Violence Intervention (GVI) program has been called the “Boston Miracle” for its success in bringing their city’s youth homicide rate down 63%, and it’s being implemented in other cities around the world. Effective violence mitigation strategies include social involvement, poverty reduction, interpersonal skills training, education, awareness, and community support. 

Baltimore has seen more than its fair share of violence this year. How can we create a safer Baltimore?

At the Women’s Housing Coalition, we are doing our part to support our community by creating stability with proper housing, offering counseling and other programs to ensure success and relieve stress for our families and individuals. We also support our residents with continuing education for our staff by attending trainings like Mental Health First Aid.  Mental Health First Aid trains coaches, police officers, teachers, faith leaders and other caring individuals to look for signs of mental illness and how to respond with appropriate intervention strategies.

Senseless acts of violence can make us feel helpless, but there are ways that you can take action to prevent violence.

There is much that we can do in our cities and towns to build connection, caring and community. Citizens of all races and ethnic backgrounds can work together to make our lives better. Baltimore has a wide range of programs that offer mentorship and educational opportunities to our youth and disadvantaged citizens. 

You can volunteer your time and talents in a way that will create a huge impact on others. Programs like MBRT connect students with volunteers and mentors to ensure high school graduation and make college an option for everyone. You can donate money to an organization like Women’s Housing Coalition or the many Maryland Nonprofits that step in and assist people in the ways they need it most. 

Preventing violence is a civic responsibility, and only together can we translate individual good deeds into community change. 

Make a Difference on Giving Tuesday

Make a Difference on Giving Tuesday

This year, Giving Tuesday falls on December 3, 2019. This day is a time when communities, individuals, and organizations come together to raise awareness for the causes that matter to them. Giving Tuesday has surpassed one billion dollars of donations since its inception in 2012!

You can join the movement and help create change in your community.

The Women’s Housing Coalition needs your support to continue to create stability for families and individuals who are some of the 2,294 homeless citizens in Baltimore City alone. We are excited to have 5 new families joining us this year, but we need your help. 

There are many ways you can donate your time or money to support the Women’s Housing Coalition.

It requires $15,000 to support one person for a year. Your monetary donation on Giving Tuesday will help keep an individual or family in a safe home so they can thrive. You can also support the WHC monetarily by hosting a fundraiser on Facebook

With five new families joining us we need lots of household items like kitchenware and linens. You can purchase new goods for our families and make a donation to the Women’s Housing Coalition

Part of how we help people thrive is by giving them the right support including workshops on finances and career placement. If you have a special skill that you could share with our women, or you would like to bring some friends to help us maintain our houses, we would greatly appreciate you volunteering your time. 

There are many ways that you can have an impact on people’s lives and create change in your community. We hope you join us on Giving Tuesday! 

The Margaret J. Bennett House

The Margaret J. Bennett House

The Margaret J. Bennett Home opened in 1902 as a boarding house for women. Mrs. Bennett, widow of Francis Worthington Bennett, an auctioneer, died in 1900 with no children. Mrs. Bennett provided $150,000 in her will towards opening the house for women, which remained open into the 1970s.  

In the 1900’s a room and two meals daily started at $8 – $12 a week, then increased to $27.50 a week in the 1920s and housed females from 14 – 40  years old.   Some of the early house rules included:

o   No excessive use of cosmetics

o   No smoking

o   No advertising from the house

o   No bringing employment into the home

o   No alcohol

o   No food in the bedroom

o   No use of electric or gas

o   No oil appliances

o   Mandatory house meeting attendance

o   Guest visits were $1.50 per day 

o   Curfew started at 9:00 p.m. and moved to 11:00 p.m. in the 1920s

Today, the Margaret J. Bennett Home continues to serve women in Baltimore. The WHC took ownership of the building and celebrated its groundbreaking in 1999. It currently houses 30 individuals in 29 single room occupancies and 1 apartment. In 2016 a basement space was renovated to create a gym and cooking demonstration kitchen. At the beginning of 2019, the health suite that was first opened in 2011, but had not been used in recent years, was reopened with new occupants – Health Alliance Associates, Inc. They provide an integrated model of primary care, behavioral health, medication therapy management and peer recovery outreach for persons recovering from homelessness, mental health disorders, substance abuse disorders, and other traumas. Health Alliance has been a great partner to us, providing same or next-day appointments to any of our residents in need of their services, and to the community at large, as most of their patients are from outside our program.

At the Women’s Housing Coalition, we are grateful to our staff, patrons, and visionaries, like Mrs. Margaret Bennett, for helping us fulfill our mission to create stability for families and individuals with safe housing.

If the Margaret J. Bennett Home is also a part of your history, we would love to hear about it. You can email slong@womenshousingcoalition.com to share your story as part of our upcoming 40th anniversary.