Lakia and Sa’Nyia first became St. Ambrose supporters and advocates in 2014 when Lakia called the office to see if we would accept donations of school supplies. She had already reached out to several organizations around the city without any luck when a friend had mentioned she look into a place “on 25th Street.” Her friend couldn’t remember the name, but Lakia did a little digging and found St. Ambrose.
Lakia started the school supplies drive because she knew that so often school supplies drives happening in the city don’t end up reaching the kids who need it the most, either because they can’t get there or they don’t have the resources or network to even know about it. Her own experiences growing up in Baltimore were one of her biggest motivators to start organizing the drive.“I wanted to target children who get overlooked.”
Lakia is a hair stylist and recently opened up her own salon. Being an entrepreneur means Lakia always stays busy, so her daughter Sa’Nyia helps put it all together by collecting schools supplies lists from different schools and assembling over 40 book bags with the supplies needed for each grade. “Every year our house looks like Wal-Mart” Sa’Nyia said of the process. The pair receives donations and support from friends and family from as far away as Los Angeles and even Johannesburg.
Lakia and Sa’Nyia help distribute the supplies to the children and youth living in our rental homes and in Homesharing matches each year on Sa’Nyia’s birthday. “I want her to be well-rounded.” Lakia says of raising her daughter with experiences like this. “I want her to try things and find her own way,” and also, to know the value of giving back!
“I think we might have been one of the first places in the country to do default counseling.
The problem in default counseling is the immoral or unfair loans that are given to people. I guess we can still call them predatory loans. It’s tragic because people are losing their houses left and right because the loans are so bad.
The problem with loans today is the original lenders and brokers have defaulted on their fiduciary responsibility to their clients. This responsibility is exactly the opposite of what they do in practice. They lie to the client and withhold information. They don’t act for the best interest of the clients. They make money for themselves to the detriment of the client.
That’s the whole problem with this city. They put people in houses they couldn’t afford or get people to refinance and give them bad loans. My goal would be to have that stopped. We could expose it more and more and perhaps work on legislation preventing it. A lot of times this stuff is legal. The spoken word has led the client to understand the opposite of what the client signs on paper. So it’s legal, but to my point of view immoral.
That is the big thing in Baltimore in housing.”
– Frank Fischer, July 2007
The St. Ambrose Mortgage Default Counseling program, now called Foreclosure Prevention Counseling, began in the mid-1970’s in response to a request from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Mortgage Default Counseling was the first expansion of services beyond the organization’s grass roots activism and homeownership education services.
Ralph Moore comments on the secret to St. Ambrose’s success over the last 50 years through the story of a woman who found her footing in a St. Ambrose rental home. Ralph is a former staff and board member.
A story of lives, love, and culture shared as told by Annette Leahy Maggitti, Homesharing pioneer and veteran.
The following is an excerpt from the Homesharing Newsletter: Fall 2002.
There are some people who are just made for homesharing, and Shirley is just that kind of person. A vibrant woman in her 70’s, she had recently purchased her home and wanted to share it. Shirley is respectful of life and the environment, and she thought it unfair to have a three-bedroom home and have only one bedroom being used! On a fixed income, the extra money would certainly help, and being a gregarious, open individual, it was only natural that she would want some companionship.
Her flexibility was probably her greatest asset when it came to homesharing. She wanted a respectable person whom he could trust, but culture, race, age and status meant absolutely nothing to her. In the five years she has been with us, she has had 6 homesharers, the latest was with Yong, the subject of this not so usual match!
Yong came from China and enrolled in the International Business Program at the University of Baltimore. In the student housing guide, St. Ambrose was listed. He wanted a quiet, peaceful place to live and work. Shirley welcomed him as she had with all of her former housemates. She had hosted Korean students, Indian contract workers and American youngsters making the break from living under their parents’ roof. Yong knew from the first interview with Shirley that this was the place for him. They shared their culture and interests. He prepared Chinese dumplings and she introduced him to American sweets!
Almost a year into their time together, a colleague of Yong’s needed a place to “hang her hat,” and Shirley had a very small room that she was willing to rent. Yong and his friend, who at the time were “just friends”, became more enamored of each other and announced that they had decided to get married.
They asked Shirley to be one of their witnesses. She was thrilled beyond words! Shirley hosted a reception at her home, combining American culture and food with Chinese decorations and delicacies. Neighbors, friends, students, professors, family members and St. Ambrose staff, the initial matchmakers, celebrated another success!
In 1995, St. Ambrose received a challenge grant from the Weinberg Foundation to create an endowment for the agency. More than 250 individuals, families, and foundations rose to Weinberg’s challenge and contributed what they could to the campaign. The widespread community support helped St. Ambrose reach our goal and demonstrated a far reaching commitment to support the agency’s future in the city. Twenty-two years later, this gift is still making an impact in Baltimore.
In 2006, frustrated with the yellow “WE BUY HOUSES” signs that were beginning to pop up around the city, St. Ambrose created counter ads and posters to advertise our foreclosure prevention counseling services. We placed these ads on public transportation and in the newspapers to let the community know that we were ready to help struggling homeowners fight to keep their homes.
As the foreclosure crisis took a hold of our city, St. Ambrose foreclosure prevention counselors began serving over 1,000 people a year. In 2007, St. Ambrose served 1,031 families and individuals facing foreclosure and our follow up research 3 years later showed that 70% of households served were either still in their homes or were able to sell their home for more than they paid!