As we wind down from last week’s celebration of St. Ambrose’s 50th year of service in Baltimore, we have the chance to reflect on our past and the people who have been a part of that journey. We look back to our roots grounded in political activism that combatted “block busting” and “red lining.” We take a moment to review the various ways we have been able to work towards our mission throughout these fifty years in our effort to create and maintain equal housing opportunities and to support strong and diverse neighborhoods.
After that reflection, as we look to our future, we realize that our mission stays the same. We will strive to ensure the stability of families by providing the homes and support services they need to grow and thrive. In the words of our Executive Director, Gerard Joab, “While some of our service areas have adjusted to meet the changing needs of the families in our community, we will continue to work to enhance the quality of life for our residents, treating each person we encounter with the dignity and humanity they deserve.”
And we look forward to your continued support and partnerships as we work to make our city stronger together. Thank you for helping us make Baltimore Home.
For over twenty years Faye has been a part of the St. Ambrose family. As St. Ambrose’s receptionist, she is the first face many of our clients encounter, and she is always ready to welcome them in.
“I heard about St. Ambrose from my sister-in-law who had been working here when I started. I knew they needed help covering the front desk, so I came in on contract to fill in where they needed. Eventually, I came on full-time and it’s a good fit. I love the freedom we have, and I really enjoy all the people. Who can say they get along with everyone they work with? But I really do enjoy everyone.
Of the things St. Ambrose does, I really appreciate the first-time homebuyer classes. Me and my husband bought our first house from St. Ambrose. And I think the rental program is really special. Around the holidays when St. Ambrose gives gifts to families in our rental homes, you get to see how grateful everyone is, and it’s really special. People just can’t believe the person they rent from is helping them buy gifts for their kids.
All the people who come here are pretty good. I see people come in worried and scared they are going to lose their home, and they feel like this is their last hope. They want it to be their last stop. And we try to do that for them. There are people who come in crying and they just make you feel like crying too. When I can get them to that person to help them out, then I can sleep at night.
People often think of us as the 411 for the city. They think we do everything- and we do offer a lot. But for the things we can’t help with, we find someone who can. We just want to see these people get the help they need to keep their home.”
Katrina Anderson has been living in her St. Ambrose rental home for over 10 years. She feels blessed to have stumbled upon this organization and is excited to share her St. Ambrose story with everyone.
“It’s a funny story. I was on the bus thinking about how I needed to move away from the place I was at. It was a rough neighborhood and I didn’t want my three kids living there. And I got this letter from St. Ambrose saying they could help me find a home, and I thought ‘why not give it a shot?’
I went to St. Ambrose and Leah Mason-Grant showed me this home. I loved it. It has all this greenery and a big yard. I thought it was going to be a long waiting list, but that wasn’t the case. Within six months I moved in. And Leah was so cool. I don’t normally open up to people all that easily, but with her it was like ‘click, click.’ We just got along right away. She made me feel comfortable.
And after all these years she still puts up with me. She helped in all kinds of tough circumstances. She was there for me when my mom died. She supported me and was always calling to make sure I was alright. Even when I didn’t pick up the phone, she was still checking in on me. That’s why I call her Mama because she is like a second mom to me. All of the staff is so good. Everyone helps me out to make sure my home is taken care of. I feel like St. Ambrose is my family. I’ve been through some stuff, but now it’s good. St. Ambrose was there for me.
I love my home, it keeps me calm. If I could, I would just stay in here all day and not go outside. Home is a place where you feel serenity and happiness and that is what I have in my home. I know I don’t own the home, but it’s still my home. And everyone who comes through loves it.
That’s why I want to tell everyone about St. Ambrose. I had to give a shout out to my Mama Leah and tell people about all the nice things she does for me and how wonderful she is. I’m just so blessed to have her and everyone at St. Ambrose. They are so compassionate. They are a God-send. There are so many people out there who have children and are looking for good houses. I wanted a good, wholesome, clean home, and that is what I got. I’m not threatened. No one is coming to kick me out. We need more places like that. ”
Did you know that the Orioles used to play ball in our backyard?
Union Park was the Orioles’ stadium from 1890 to 1899. The ballpark sat right on 25th Street (then Huntingdon Avenue) between Guilford Avenue and Barclay Street. It was home to Baltimore’s first championship baseball team, which captured three straight National League pennants.
After the stadium was torn down in 1905, and a string of new homes was built. What used to be home plate is now home to many new families. In 1970 St. Ambrose moved into the building right next to the where the old Grandstand stood, and we have been there ever since. You can see the side of our building on the left in the photo below.
One piece of the park still remains- a short, red-brick wall with an iron gate entrance that once stood next to the Union Park grandstand. Behind that gate was once a soda stand, and now it is part of our office.
Do you know the history of your home? What you learn may surprise you. Be sure to share what you find in the comments below.
“You need someplace where you can make yourself comfortable- someplace you can come and go, but know you always have a place to come back to. You need someplace where you know everything is going to be alright. St. Ambrose homes are nice places and they give you that.” -Virginia, St. Ambrose Rental Home client of 12 years
Virginia’s St. Ambrose story started when she was looking to move from her old city house on a troublesome street. “I heard about St. Ambrose from a neighbor. They told me that St. Ambrose had nice and affordable homes, which is what I needed.” She was introduced to the Rental Services Program Manager Leah, who was ready to show her to a few homes.
“After the first place we went to, I didn’t need to go to the second. This was a great place, and I loved it. I didn’t want to see the rest. And I keep it looking nice. I take care of it.”
After almost 12 years Virginia has taken care of her home really well and loves it as much as ever. And her St. Ambrose family is always ready to help her. “Leah is so sweet. She helps me and talks to me, and it’s really nice. And when I do need help taking care of my home I call the maintenance at St. Ambrose and they take care of it. They are nice people to work with and they do it right.”
The Martin de Porres Center serves as an inspiring model of what we can all do to provide better housing for our citizens. This St. Ambrose project converted a former school building into modern apartments for twelve families in 1980. The project “confirmed our faith in the unlimited potential of human effort and cooperation.” 1
Long a depressed area, the Johnston Square community was in desperate need of affordable family housing. We worked closely with members of the community and came up with the idea to renovate the nearby Martin de Porres School, a 130-year-old building that had been closed by the Archdiocese of Baltimore in 1978. After being approached with our plan to renovate the school the Archdiocese agreed to donate the building.
Starting with a successful bake sale sponsored by the Johnston Square community, we launched a campaign to raise money for the enormous construction costs. We received substantial financial support from the City of Baltimore, the State of Maryland, the federal government, and USF&G Insurance, and many other partners.
Employing more than 25 local Johnston Square residents, construction crews completed the renovations in nine months. Because of the gracious help and cooperation of all these concerns, twelve families, selected by representatives from the community, moved into the new Martin de Porres Center in February of 1982.
“The Martin de Porres conversion is an excellent example of what can be achieved by cooperative efforts involving the community, government, the church, and private industry. Under the creative and dedicated leadership of St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center, a vacant building that had traditionally served the community has been recycled to provide much needed housing for the East Baltimore community. Baltimore can be proud of the Center’s accomplishments.” -Former Mayor Wiliam Donald Schaefer
Click on the photos below to see the construction process.
1 Quote from St. Ambrose pamphlet on Martin de Porres transformation
Leah has worked with St. Ambrose for over 30 years, but her St. Ambrose story started before that. Her mom and dad bought their first house from St. Ambrose, and her husband had been working here when they first met. She says she was already pretty familiar with the organization even before she came to work here.
Her family connections and history with St. Ambrose are just a few reasons why she stays with the organization. As the Lead Property Manager for our Rental Program, she has seen the strong influence St. Ambrose has on the community.
“There is a great impact in this area. Many families have been given the opportunity to live in decent housing, some of whom are disabled, and have the services of Case Managers. I will always be in awe of the many great and dedicated people who have come here to help those in need. “