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. “
Syeetah never thought she could be a homeowner, but she has been living in her St. Ambrose home for 5 years. Today she sits on the board for St. Ambrose and is happy to tell her St. Ambrose story of how her dream of home ownership became a reality.
Lisa Evans was born and raised in Baltimore. After working in D.C. for a while she found an interest in community development work. Baltimore, her home, had been working on a lot of innovative projects and had some excited programs, so she figured, why not go home?
Currently Evans serves as the Executive Director of One House At A Time, but in her career she has held several positions working on the local and state level, including Deputy Director at St. Ambrose right in the middle of the foreclosure crisis. She shared with us some of her insights as a Woman in Community Development (WICD):
“When the foreclosure crisis hit, it hit in a huge way. We saw what lending did to communities and the strong, negative impact it could have.
All of a sudden community development became community stabilization. Neighborhoods that were once improving or at least stable were on the downturn. The focus became how do we make sure we didn’t see more vacants or blithe? We would fix one house and 4 more vacants would appear. Property values plummeted, dropping around 65% in value.
But now neighborhoods are improving. Barclay area is a great example. 10 years ago, vacant lots made it almost impossible for developers to rent properties in that neighborhood. And how did it turn around? Community development is about coming in and doing work that creates that change.
The question we have to ask is how do we target our community development. We would like to fix it all, but with limited resources we just can’t. It’s interesting in Baltimore because it’s a city that 3 blocks one way or 3 blocks another way is a completely different world. It’s hard to decide which way to go. In community development we say, ‘build from strength.’ So you want to build in those spots that are doing well, but you want to help these other neighborhoods that aren’t doing as well. It can be hard to figure out where to target. Very little in this field is cut and dry. You see everyone doing good, and you wish you could do more. But it’s a lot of chipping away, not mammoth steps.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
“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.