Renee’s Story

In Baltimore City, the number of unaccompanied homeless youth has almost doubled just in the last two years.1 Too often these homeless youth go unnoticed. Many still go to school or work, and try to rebuild their lives. But without a home they are missing that stable ground they need to grow.

St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center Host Home Program, a partner in the Point Source Youth-Baltimore Pilot, is working to make sure this group has support and opportunities. Renee Stainrod has joined our team as our new Homesharing Host Home Program Coordinator. She is working with our existing staff and other community partners to help address the challenges of youth homelessness.

St. Ambrose was an organization Renee heard a lot about when she moved here in 2011. “I hoped I would have the opportunity to work for an organization like St. Ambrose that seems like such a steeple in Baltimore,” Renee said. So when this position opened up, it seemed like a perfect match.

“I want to work with youth because growing up I had great mentors, and a lot of people who helped me,” explained Renee. “I was inspired by their passion for my success. I feel I have to do the same for others as they did for me. These youth are our future and we must prepare them.”

Renee also strongly relates to youth who do not have a stable home. “When I was 19, I was kicked out of the house. I wonder what would have happened if I didn’t have the support system I did. I want to help create that support for others because I understand the stress, struggle and fear of their situation.”

November is National Homeless Youth Awareness Month.  Join us in advocating for homeless youth and fighting this growing issue!

 

To volunteer to be a host home for a young person, contact Renee at renees@stambros.org.

 

 

 

 

1Maryland Youth Count 2017 Report

A Thanksgiving Story

We hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving!

This Thanksgiving we were so excited to give out food baskets to families in our rental homes!  A donation from the Baltimore Department of Transportation gave 13 families a meal for the holidays! We are so grateful for their donation!

Homecomings

“While all our programs have merit, they are perhaps best explained through the experiences of the people who know us best.  In every regard, our clients are remarkable people. Each is a special story waiting to be told.

Look at their faces. Hear their words. It is their faith that gives us the faith to fulfill our work. If we can continue to create homecomings for people like those you’re about to meet, we will have done our job well. And, with your help, we will do even more– for our neighbors and for our city.”

-From St. Ambrose’s 25th Anniversary endowment campaign book

 

It’s hard to believe we are half way through our 50 stories!  For our 25th story, we wanted to take a look back at St. Ambrose’s 25th anniversary.  While a lot has changed, our clients are still as great as ever.  They remain the cornerstone of our faith for this work. Below are stories from some of our clients 25 years ago. We hope you enjoy their stories as much as we do.

 

 

 

The GIVE story

Friday marked the end of St. Ambrose’s GIVE Group term. GIVE is a nine month fellowship offered through Business Volunteers Maryland, a nonprofit organization that strengthens the community by making strategic connections between people, businesses and nonprofits.  It prepares rising leaders in Baltimore for civic engagement and community leadership.  The 2017 St. Ambrose GIVE Team Consists of:

  • Ian Todd – Brown Advisory
  • Greg Santoro – Black and Decker
  • Danielle Dunlap – Maryland Land Institute
  • Jessica Antonen – John’s Hopkins Carey School of Business

“We were quick to learn that St. Ambrose had a lasting legacy and we needed to help to celebrate a legacy of 50 years of non-profit housing services to the Baltimore community,” said Ian Todd.  “Under the guidance of Gerard J. Joab, the executive director, we see the organization evolving over time but staying true to their mission and their community.”

In order to learn more about the organization, the GIVE team participated in key organizational meetings. They came to better understand the depth and the complexity of the organization, along with the number of different aspects of affordable housing.

We have a lot to thank the GIVE team for! In their time working with St. Ambrose, they helped St. Ambrose promote their cause and raise awareness of our 50th anniversary, in addition to aiding in fundraising efforts. They launched this website for us to share our stories. The team also created opportunities to partner with the Fells Point Taverns and Brown Advisory in downtown Baltimore.

While talking about the partnership Ian Todd added, “While our project does have an end date, the relationship we have built as individuals with St. Ambrose will last a lifetime.” We certainly hope that is true. We could not have asked for a better group to work for! Thank you to the GIVE group for all your tremendous work and support. 

 

Wicked or just WICD?

We look forward to Halloween as a time to embrace the creepy and the spooky.  It’s a time to welcome the jack-o-lanterns, the black cats and the wicked witches, who hover above the city on broomsticks and haunt us with their resonating cackle.  But far better than wicked witches, there is another “wicked” group who roams the city year round.  Instead of bringing terror, they build and strengthen neighborhoods.  Instead of casting spells, they advocate for change. They are Women in Community Development, or as we call them WICD.

“Communities do better when they tap into women’s unique abilities for building capacity and resiliency,” says Dr. Paulette Meikle. “Women should be viewed as agents of change and advocates of success.” She argues that women bring a focus to quality of life issues, and can provide unique responses in the face of social injustices.

In Baltimore, we have an extensive list of women who have dedicated themselves to leading and supporting initiatives that address specific community issues. Among them are women like Ellen Janes, Executive Director of Central Baltimore Partnership. She has served at the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, and for the Neighborhood Design Center where she created innovative and community-based programs. Another strong member of this group is Odette Ramos. Now the Executive Director of the Community Development Network, she started Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance and was the founder and CEO of Strategic Management Consulting.  In her consulting position and currently as an advocate she has aided many grassroots organizations (including St. Ambrose) with their efforts to address housing, education and people with disabilities to name a few.

In an editorial for the Baltimore Sun, Ramos talks about the great need for community development. She explains,

“Many people work hard but can’t afford decent homes in their communities. Many of our friends, relatives and neighbors need a boost in preparing for or finding jobs. Families across the state need assistance in landing on their feet after a foreclosure. And many of our neighborhoods — urban, suburban and rural — need new energy and investments to spur private investments.”

Read the full article here to learn more about the impact of community development in local neighborhoods.

We can’t list all of the impactful women here today, but think about the women in your network and we bet you know someone who qualifies for WICD.  Be on the look out for our future conversations with more of the WICD group. And join us in celebrating these amazing women, because being WICD is far from being bad!

 

Baltimore’s Rising Water Bills

What would you do if you received this notice in the mail?  Evelyn Anderson is a 70 year old wife of a veteran.  She moved into her rowhouse on Ravenwood Avenue in 1975, and has called it home ever since.  But when her water bills began rising into the thousands and became too high to pay, her home of over 40 years was in danger of being lost to tax sale.

Evelyn came to St. Ambrose hoping for some way to save her home. The legal team was able to work with the Department of Public Works to secure assistance, and raise awareness of her plight.  Ultimately, St. Ambrose lawyers were able to save Evelyn nearly $3,000 and more importantly, her home.  This story struck a chord with readers and through their generosity, she was able to pay the bill and save her home.

The St. Ambrose legal team receives many calls from frightened homeowners like Evelyn who are unsure how they will manage such large water bills.  These billing issues impact everyone including organizations. But for low-income families or seniors on fixed incomes, who rely on careful budgeting to ensure they can afford basic necessities, a large, unexpected bill can strike panic. If they are unable to pay the bills, their house could go to tax sale.  St. Ambrose attorneys can help protect families from this kind of catastrophe with free or low-cost legal advice and representation.

Seeing the dire need for reform, St. Ambrose has joined the advocacy effort, working on task forces and partnering with organizations like the Food and Water Watch and Water for All Baltimore Coalition.  The system shouldn’t be so complicated and muddled that people feel they need legal representation just to talk about a water bill. “Citizens shouldn’t need a lawyer to dispute bills. The process should be clear enough for everyone to understand,” Charlotte Clarke, St. Ambrose attorney states. She wrote a great piece that explains in further detail the need to reform the billing system. You can read it read it here.

To read more about Evelyn’s story and St. Ambrose’s push for reform, check out the Baltimore Sun Article.

 

Lessons from a first time homebuyer

“…Take your time and don’t be rushed into finding your dream home.  There may be plenty of options, but there is only one for you.  You’ll know it’s yours because you would get a feeling of peace and you would just know.  Do not be discouraged about the setbacks that may come along with the purchase because nothing in life comes easy, but if it’s meant for you it will definitely happen…”

Danielle, a recent first-time homebuyer herself, wanted to share this piece of advice and encouragement with everyone else searching to find their perfect home.  She knows the journey can be long and challenging at times.  The paperwork can be overwhelming. But with a little help, and a St. Ambrose counselor on your side, finding the right house to call home is possible.* You can have that feeling of peace from finding your home. You can feel that excitement from finding your first home. You can be proud, knowing all the hard work paid off, and you finally have that place you were meant to own.

For Danielle, knowing that her money was going to pay for her own home instead of paying rent to someone else is one of the most exciting parts of becoming a homeowner. Well, that and being able to decorate the place however she wants!

Danielle was able to buy her house after participating in St. Ambrose’s Homeownership counseling.  After taking a pre-purchase workshop, she and a counselor worked together to consider her individual needs and wants.  When asked what the most valuable role the counselor played, she replied that her counselor was always there to assist no matter what she needed, even helping her find funding to assist with closing costs. Her counselor helped make the dream of homeownership a reality.

To first time homebuyers, Danielle also adds, “Always Pray to find peace and clarity. Look for a home that fits your budget, it may not be perfect as far as having everything you want but you can make it home.”

“St. Ambrose agency helps battle shady contractors”

A home should be a secure place.  A home should be a place that protects you. So how can making a few minor repairs, which should ensure that safety, end up putting homeowners in danger of losing their whole house? In the late ‘80’s, an increasing rate of home improvement fraud put vulnerable homeowners in our community in exactly that position. As long ago as 1989,St. Ambrose recognized the need for access to civil justice and the above article tells that story.

 

The following is an excerpt from an article in “The Evening Sun” published on December 5th, 1989.

St. Ambrose agency helps battle shady contractors by Nancy Pick

“Helen Willett was almost forced to pay $8,000 for seven leaky windows and a door.

But St. Ambrose Legal Services, which specializes in fighting unscrupulous home improvement contractors, intervened and negotiated the price down to $2,300.

‘I won’t have that worry any more,’ said Willett, a bakery worker who lives with her ailing mother in a South Baltimore rowhouse.

Since the legal services agency was launched in July 1988, it has looked into more than 100 cases of alleged home improvement fraud in Baltimore.

Typically the contractors charge outrageous fees for shoddy work, and often prey upon elderly women who live alone. The victims put their homes at risk, unknowingly signing a second mortgage to finance the repairs.

The legal services staff resolves some complaints itself, while farming out the more complex cases to lawyers who have volunteered to handle them for free.

Because the agency is funded by the Maryland Legal Services Corp., it is limited to helping low-income people. The current income ceiling is $23,200 a year for a family of four.

The non-profit MLSC provides legal representation in civil case to people who otherwise could not afford it.

St. Ambrose Legal Services was founded in wake of major home improvement fraud in the Baltimore area, including one scheme that led to a class-action lawsuit by nearly 500 low-income homeowners.”

A Thank You to our Neighbors

When you think of the word neighbor, who comes to mind?  Neighbors can make us think of a whole community of people.  Some we know very well, and have been afforded the great joy of getting to share in their lives.  Some we may not know well at all, but their presence alone encourages us think more of the community we are surrounded by.

We have been so fortunate to come across so many good neighbors over the years.  We had to take this chance to recognize them on this National Good Neighbor Day!  Their stories bring to light the great impact our fellow community members have on us, and the wonderful sensations accompanied by embracing those connections. Our homesharers in particular are shining examples of people who go above and beyond to help others.

Karen Heyward-West, director of the Homesharing Program, spoke to Mr. Jones, who was matched with Ms. Smith and her 8 year-old grandson. He was happy to report that they all were getting along extremely well (Names of clients have been changed to protect their identity).

“First the ability to help people find a home is important to me,” Mr Jones commented. “Second this match is perfect; I adore this child, and can tell that he is safe, stable, and very happy.  I even brought him a dog.”

“In my wildest dreams I would have never thought that my life would be enhanced by sharing my home.  Homesharing for me is a long term solution for people like me and Ms. Smith. It’s not always about the money it’s about the person you are and can become when you are happy!”

Ms. Smith also shared her story with Homesharing.

“I can now see a light at the end of the tunnel.  I can plan my funds better, purchase food on a regular basis.  I am providing a stable home environment for my grandson.  Who would have thought that Homesharing would allow me to put a smile on my face let alone my Grandson. I have learned through Homesharing that it’s not always about having your name on the deeds, but it’s about having a place to call home.”

Thank you to all the good neighbors, who help us find and create homes.  Thank you for being a part of our lives.  We are exceptionally grateful for you, who so graciously reach from the bottom of your heart to lend us a hand. We hope we can be good neighbors to you too.

What neighbors are you grateful for? What impact have they had on your life?

 

 

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