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. “
St. Ambrose is proud to have been a part of the NeighborWorks network for 13 years. NeighborWorks America has provided significant funding to support our programs as well as facilitated training sessions and networking opportunities for our organization.
We are especially grateful for their help with our 40th anniversary. In the video below you can see some of the fun from our last big celebration featuring former NeighborWorks CEO Ken Wade. We are so glad to have them be a partner again for our 50th anniversary and help them commemorate their own 40th anniversary this year. It’s a 40/50 celebration!
Through their Priority Markets Program, the Wells Fargo Foundation has awarded $80,000 to St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center for the preservation of affordable rental apartments in the Hampden community of North Baltimore. The award provides funding needed for St. Ambrose to begin a comprehensive renovation of their Union Ave. Apartments. This garden style apartment complex is home to 54 families.
Beyond the replacement of heating and hot water systems throughout the Union Ave. complex within the last five years, only routine maintenance has occurred since the initial renovation in 1996. However, the property needs a substantial renovation to the interior and exterior to assure that it meets the competitive standards of today’s market in a neighborhood that has been trending upward for several years. The planned upgrades include the addition of central air conditioning and removal and replacement of window units. The agency is holding units vacant to enable an in-place rehab. Residents from an entire building will relocate to renovated vacant units allowing for the total renovation of one building at a time.
With a severe lack of affordable housing rentals in Baltimore, the funding from Wells Fargo represents a significant investment in the Hampden community and helps improve the quality of life for the residents of the Union Ave. apartment complex. Union Ave. provides affordable homes for families, which are close to public transportation and schools, in a neighborhood bustling with newer developments. The anticipated start date for the renovation is the summer of 2018 and St. Ambrose is committed to creating a property that demonstrates affordable rental housing can blend into a desired urban aesthetic and be an asset within the community.
On Jan. 29, in the brightly colored auditorium of the Roosevelt Recreation Center, St. Ambrose program directors Bill Rubin and David Sann, presented the renovation plans to a group of 30 Hampden community members and the Hampden Community Council. The directors answered questions, assuring the community that no residents would be displaced and that the renovation plans were designed to keep the construction period short. Overall, there was appreciation for the planned building renovations to improve living conditions for the Union Ave. apartment complex residents. “I’m glad those people are getting nicer homes,” said one participant in the meeting. “And for the rest of us going by it will look good. With a unanimous vote, the council agreed to write a letter of support for the project.
St. Ambrose thanks Wells Fargo and the Hampden Community for their support in creating better housing opportunities in Baltimore.
Christina, aka Jolley, has been homeless for almost three years. She stayed with friends for several months while looking for a permanent place to call home for her and her kids.
“If I had permanent housing before all this had happened, my life would be completely different. I think that I would still be in school or at a better job that I’m in right now. I could really support my kids how I really wanted to. It would just be perfect.”
Our Host Home Program helps people like Christina find stability. Listen to her story below as she tells us what it means to a safe and secure home.
Want to learn more about the Host Home Program? Contact Renee Stainrod at email@example.com or at 410-366-8550 X 233
Organizations like St. Ambrose can do little without the support of individuals and other partnering organizations. With their help we are able to build a stronger network of services and resources for our communities. Religious organizations are one group of supporters who helped St. Ambrose during our early years, and still do today through impact investing.
Early in the 1970s congregations of Catholic Nuns, more commonly known today as Women Religious, began a trend of investing in communities using loans to create a more direct and significant effect on social justice causes. It was a whole new way of operating for many congregations. As described in a Shelterforce article by Dee Walsh, “The money they invested was what they would rely on to care for their sustenance and retirement. It was a big, risky step, but they embraced the challenge and have done amazingly well, with no regrets, few losses, and a tremendous amount of positive change along the way.”
These religious loans showed a tremendous amount of trust and commitment to the causes they were supporting, and they had an incredible impact. In addition to the substantial amount of loans and direct investments they have given to organizations, Women Religious strongly influenced the growth of the Community Development Financial Institutions. In fact many of the CDFIs today got their start from congregations of Women Religious.
One of the earliest examples of this investing came from the Adrian Dominican Sisters. They had become increasingly aware of redlining practices and in 1978 established an alternative investment loan fund. The loans allowed the Sisters to develop stronger relationships with the organizations as opposed to giving grants. St. Ambrose is just one of the recipients of the over 500 loans distributed by the Adrian Dominican Sisters.
Other religious lenders who have supported St. Ambrose include Sisters of Notre Dame, Sisters of St. Francis, Sisters of Charity, Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and several others. Their funds have made a significant impact on our ability to work in Baltimore.
For more on Women Religious and their innovative funding methods, check out the Shelterforce article!