Courtesy Catholic Charities of Baltimore
Courtesy Catholic Charities of Baltimore

Even before the riots of April 2015, Catholic Charities of Baltimore was one of the strongest providers of services for the needy in West Baltimore. Thanks to a new round of grants from private foundations and public sources, Executive Director Bill McCarthy said his organization can expand its work in Sandtown-Winchester and surrounding neighborhoods.

Catholic Charities of Baltimore announced today that it received six direct grants and two through partner organizations. Among them are: $50,000 from CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield to establish a therapeutic after school program at its Safe Kids Zone in Penn North; nearly $36,000 from the nonprofit Behavioral Health System Baltimore for mental health and substance use disorder services at the group’s Youth Opportunities Center in West Baltimore; and $30,000 from the Maryland Emergency Food Program to expand food services at five parishes.

According to McCarthy, the organization applied for the grants during the same financial reporting period. While the group has maintained programs in that end of the city since well before the death of Freddie Gray, after the riots, McCarthy was able to identify four areas where they needed to improve offerings: Workforce development, food assistance, childcare/family services and violence prevention.

Some of the changes they made were related to logistics. McCarthy said their workforce development and employment services were previously concentrated at the Our Daily Bread Center, visible from the Fallsway. However, “when I walked around and toured the neighborhoods of West Baltimore, I realized getting to Our Daily Bread wasn’t that easy,” McCarthy said.

One solution: Last year, Catholic Charities opened up an automotive service technician training center in the Mosher neighborhood at W. Lafayette Avenue and Poplar Grove Street. That program has done well, McCarthy said. Now, a $65,000 grant from the Marion I. and Henry J. Knott Foundation and a $20,000 grant from the T. Rowe Price Foundation will help them to expand that center’s work with young Baltimoreans.

As for food assistance, Catholic Charities had already expanded its pantries, growing from one location serving about 60 families a week to three location serving around 500 families since the unrest of spring 2015. With the MEFP grant, the group can open two additional sites to help those families dealing with hunger.

The group also seeks to expand its fight against the epidemic of gun violence in that area of the city. As some know, Catholic Charities operates a Safe Streets center in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood in April. McCarthy said the center’s staff has made nearly 200 interventions in situations that could involve gun violence. With an estimated $48,000 coming from the U.S Justice Department, McCarthy said they will be able to hire an additional violence interrupter to the neighborhood who will work with middle and high schoolers.

McCarthy said that after the riots, his organization had to do some soul-searching. “Some neighborhoods had significant poverty, unemployment and chronic health issues,” he said. What did we need to stop doing, what did we need to do differently?”

In their search for answers, the organization has committed to developing programs and assisting other groups in West Baltimore over the past year-and-a-half. With a new round of funding heading into 2017, West Baltimore stands to benefit from Catholic Charities work for its neighborhoods.

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Ethan McLeod

Ethan McLeod is a freelance reporter in Baltimore. He previously worked as an editor for the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Fishbowl. His work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, Next City and...