In working with people experiencing homelessness or housing instability we, at Heart’s Place Services, learned how difficult these lives were beyond what housed people have to deal with. Each day this population must also make vital decisions regarding the availability of food and where to find a safe place to sleep each night. Imagining our own lives so affected we decided to do something to help at least a segment of this population regain control over their living conditions and their lives.
Consider what it is like to have to find a shelter for a night, with rules about how long you can remain housed there, or being put into a hotel room for an undetermined time, relying on relatives or friends for a couch or floor on which to sleep – at least until another relative or friend asks for the same and you have to, again, move on or, worst of all, sleep in a car, in an abandoned building without heat and subject to fires, or on the street. Imagine all this when you also have children to care for.
Hope Village is our vision to correct these detrimental life experiences for at least those who work but still find themselves experiencing homelessness. Through Hope Village we are providing the beginning of a solid solution to this problem. When people have jobs and work they should be able to afford a mortgage to purchase a decent house in which to live and, if they are parents, to bring up their children in a healthy and happy home. What they’ve needed and what we are doing is bringing down the cost of a house within reach of even very low-income wage earners for the first time.
But our plan took much longer than we expected. In life unexpected issues can delay any good idea from reaching fruition. Working for 6 years on the Hope Village project we experienced a City malware attack and two years of a pandemic, all affecting the staffing of the City such that things could not move as quickly as expected. But our time was spent honing in on the needs of the population we strove to serve, on what is involved in construction, in costings and in finding the right blend of deeply committed donors and visionaries from architects to commercial entities pledged to extend their success to others in need.
With the commitment of Mark Sapperstein of 28 Walker Development, who was so moved by a Baltimore Sun article by Dan Rodricks that he pledged to financially support this project, and with a growing number of volunteers and supporters, the worked began.
Now we had the funding and now we needed to bring it all together. Our original idea of retrofitting 40’x 10’x 8’ cargo containers met with obstacles as well. There are still areas of the country where such retrofitting is not usual and therefore not supplied with people willing to commit to the plan or facing permitting rules not designed for this purpose. Banks were not able to provide mortgages because of certain financing requirements as well. But with so many people working together to ensure the success of Hope Village, from visionary architects to volunteers giving of their time to educate the prospective homeowners to find the right non-profits offering their skills to help where needed.
Finally, groundbreaking is scheduled for July 12, 2022 on 27 lots of Holbrook St. in the Oliver Community in Baltimore City. Work will still go on with the dedicated work of Anne London and her volunteers furnishing the houses with all that is needed to call them homes. Within a few months 13 small but efficient and lovely new homes on two lots of land and fully furnished will be ready for purchase by working people experiencing homelessness who have gone through Financial Literacy and Budgeting courses readying them for banking approvals of their purchase. And social services will follow for a time to assist the previously homeless now adjusting to a new life of homeownership.
It is our fervent wish that Hope Village will be a pilot program that inspires municipalities throughout the Country to use a Public-Private program copying ours. The value of this plan is far-reaching, from building communities on vacant land to providing additional sources of funding to cities through tax revenues which could be used to support other programs for the homeless, to giving the segments of the working poor experiencing homelessness a healthier, happier and safer future through owning a home they can call their very own.