Virtual Past Intern/Volunteer Reunion

July 29, 2015 by

Welcome to the kickoff of our Virtual Past Intern/Volunteer Blog reunion-where past Interns and Volunteers will reminisce and shed some light into their time here at St. Ambrose. We’ve recently said goodbye to Michelle Zupanc, one of our volunteers, after months of hard work. Read what Michelle has to say about her experience below!

Intern Communication Project-MichelleIntern Communication Project-Michelle2

St. Ambrose Welcomes our YouthWorks Summer Employees

July 7, 2015 by

Summer jobs help propel teens into a productive future. Research shows that for each year teenagers work in high school, their income rises an average of 15% in their 20’s. Summer jobs for teens have been shown to correlate with a lower arrest rate, in addition to teaching lifelong lessons about responsibility. Despite these advantages, a multitude of factors have caused the share of teenagers who work during the summer to plummet since the 2000’s (NY Times).

This year, Baltimore responded to this issue by stepping up to support youth employment. State, city, and private funding poured into YouthWorks, the city’s summer jobs program, to enable all 8,000 youth applicants to be placed in a summer job this year, an increase from 5,000 last year. The uprising this spring sent a clear message to our city about the necessity of investing in our youth and providing them the opportunities to learn and grow through valuable employment opportunities. St. Ambrose offered our support to the program by sending staff over to the YouthWorks office this June to volunteer with necessary administrative tasks to ensure each youth could be placed in time for the program’s tight deadlines.

St. Ambrose and NHS of Baltimore volunteers with YouthWorks staff

St. Ambrose and NHS of Baltimore staff volunteers with YouthWorks staff

St. Ambrose welcomed our two YouthWorks summer employees last Monday to begin a summer of working and learning at St. Ambrose. Gary and Rochelle help with administrative tasks in each of the different departments at St. Ambrose giving them an opportunity to learn a little bit about each St. Ambrose program.

Rochelle

Rochelle is participating in her 4th year in a YouthWorks summer job. She will be a senior this fall at Lock Raven High School and her favorite subject is math. In addition to earning an income, she’s looking forward to taking some courses at CCBC this summer. When she grows up she wants to be a lawyer and own a small business on the side.

Gary

Gary just graduated from City High School and this is his third year participating in YouthWorks. His favorite subject is history, especially world and US history. He’s looking forward to getting some extra sleep this summer and enjoys walking around the reservoir in his neighborhood to clear his head. When he grows up he wants to be an animator.

Welcome to the St. Ambrose family, Rochelle and Gary!

5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Add Someone to Your House Deed

June 30, 2015 by

St. Ambrose Legal Services has received an influx of calls from city residents who have been advised to add a relative’s name to their house deed. The common misconception is that adding someone to the deed will protect your home for your heirs. Below are five reasons why adding a loved one to your deed is not a smart way to protect your investment.

  1. Loss of control– Adding anyone’s name to your deed makes the other person a co-owner of the property. If you decide to sell the property and the co-owner does not agree, then you cannot sell.
  2. Inheritance by others– If your new co-owner dies before you do, then that person’s interest could pass on to someone else.  You could end up owning the house with one or more people.
  3. Exposure to creditors– Your house is exposed to the debts or your co-owner. Likewise, if the co-owner has tax issues or they are sued and lose, a lien could be placed on your property. A lien on your house could force it to be sold.
  4. Taxable gift – Putting someone’s name on your deed is legally a gift that could require a federal gift tax return.
  5. Medicaid Penalty– If you give someone an interest in your home, it could trigger ineligibility for Medicaid benefits in the event you need nursing home care.

Adding a name to your home is risky.  The safer alternative is to draft a Will that leaves your property to the person of your choice. Seniors in Baltimore City can get a free Will through the Bar Association of Baltimore City: 410-396-5277.

home-matters

Our Newest Homeowner Proves the Power of Resilience

June 18, 2015 by

Joseph Butler recently purchased a newly renovated home from St. Ambrose in the Belair-Edison neighborhood. Fifty-seven years old and a first time homebuyer, Butler said that he was looking ahead to retirement and wanted something to call his own, “anyone can own a car, but a home- that’s something special.”Joseph Butler

Mr. Butler is a particularly special first time homeowner for St. Ambrose because he is a former tenant with St. Ambrose Rental Services. He lived in St. Martin’s apartments in West Baltimore for seven years before purchasing his new home in Belair-Edison. As the first client who has both rented from St. Ambrose and purchased a St. Ambrose home, we sat down with Butler to inquire about his journey to homeownership.

This spring, “things just fell into place” for Butler, who had always dreamed of owning his own home. Although he admits that he had his doubts during the home-buying process. Things were moving slowly before the settlement and his patience was tested as he waited for the final approval to go through. Working with Denise Hairston, our in-house realtor at St. Ambrose, Butler finally went to settlement on Friday, June 12th, accompanied at the signing table by his proud father.

Through support from the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) based in Washington, DC, St. Ambrose offers closing cost assistance grants for first time homebuyers. This special funding helps us to bring new homeowners into Baltimore neighborhoods. Butler, however, was a special case.  Because he was our renter at the time, a technicality prevented St. Ambrose from offering him the closing cost grant. But NFHA wouldn’t allow a small complication to prevent Butler from receiving this support. The last thing to fall into place for Butler was a grant check directly from NFHA to support his closing costs. Hairston’s advocacy on Butler’s behalf was critical in ensuring this benefit was accepted by the lender.

Butler’s advice to someone who wants to own a home is to “save money, be patient” and citing the old adage that so often rings true, “Rome was not built in a day.” He also recommends others to be proactive in addressing their credit issues. “Have an open conversation with those who you owe debts.”

Resilience and gratitude are two other factors that undoubtedly contributed to Butler’s success in achieving his lifelong goal.  An army veteran from the DC area, Butler moved to Baltimore in 1998. Butler was honest and candid about his life’s journey. A former drug user, Butler went through rehab at Maryland Center for Veterans Education (MCVET) in 2000 and has been clean for 15 years. While living in St. Martin’s, Butler paid off all of his debts and sought assistance to help to repair his credit in order to prepare to take out a mortgage. “I am so blessed,” Butler emphasizes when he speaks of his journey to homeownership. His warm smile radiates his appreciation for life’s lessons and successes.

Mr. Butler works for the federal government as a security guard for the Smithsonian. He commutes to Landover, Maryland where he works an evening shift at the Smithsonian storage facility. He’s also worked at the American Indian, Air and Space, American History, and Natural History museums. Butler has loved the opportunity to learn from museum curators during his tenure at the Smithsonian. The American History Museum is his favorite, noting a Duke Ellington exhibit, JK Lilly’s historic coin collection, and the first ladies’ inaugural dresses.  Another testament to Butler’s ethic, he actually left his position at the Smithsonian for several years and was successful in earning his job back- not an easy feat for a position in the government.

What is Mr. Butler looking forward to about his new home? For one, all of the appliances are brand new. The luxury of not having to worry about replacing the air conditioning, furnace, and kitchen appliances is peace of mind for a first time home buyer, and having his own brand new washer and dryer means he has the privilege of doing laundry in the comfort of his own home. Another amenity about his new home is that he can practice his saxophones (both alto and tenor) more freely than he could in his apartment. Afforded with both a front and backyard, he’s also looking forward to sitting outside and drinking coffee while he reads the paper.

When asked what attracted Butler to Belair-Edison in particular, he didn’t hesitate for a moment before responding, “It’s nice and quiet. Listen… all you hear is the wind blowing across the trees.” Indeed, nestled on a quiet street next to Herring Run Park, Butler’s new home is far enough from the bustle to feel at complete peace.

“This will always be mine,” Butler says with pride. “I am so blessed.”

closer up

St. Ambrose Reflects

May 8, 2015 by
These row homes on 23rd and 1/2 St were damaged by fires in the 1968 riots. St. Ambrose repaired and renovated them to revitalize the neighborhood.

These row homes on 23rd and 1/2 St were damaged by fires in the 1968 riots. St. Ambrose repaired and renovated this block to help revitalize our neighborhood.

The death of Freddie Gray while in the custody of Baltimore City Police stirred Baltimore as our neighbors took their frustration to the streets to call for justice. These events have forced the city to step back and reflect on issues of poverty, racism, violence and justice- issues that have defined Baltimore’s history.

Here at St. Ambrose, conversation in the halls of 321 E. 25th St has broadened from our usual discussion of the daily developments within our programs to the greater, overarching issues facing our city. We’ve shared the reactions and experiences from our own corners of the city, debated the triumphs and falls of the city school system and police department, exchanged editorials and volunteer opportunities over email, while always reaffirming our commitment to the work that we do.

Below are a few comments contributed from staff members across departments as we reflect on the city that we love and support:

Last week, feelings of empathy for the conditions that brought the rioters to violence fiercely competed with a distaste of the self-destructiveness of the violence and heartache for its negative effects on local businesses and the citizens who relied on them.  Sprinklings of hope were added to this stew of emotions as I read, watched, and heard stories of citizens from different backgrounds coming together to clean up, restore peace, and bring healing. With renewed confidence, but a nagging sense of uncertainty, I will wait and see if this groundswell of grassroots collaboration can bring about a broader confrontation with the social and economic problems that affect this city and others like it.

So many emotions were going through my mind and heart as I watched the anger erupt.  We love our city. My daughter and family have chosen to live here and my heart ached for them.  I also thought of all the people of our world who face this and worse every day.  My hope is that we will all face the fact that we have problems.  Awareness is the first step.  Acceptance is even harder, but I think denial is being cracked.  With prayer and confidence that the force for good is stronger than the force for evil, men and women of Baltimore will talk to one another without labeling and take a step at a time.  We all swim or we all sink….we are in this together.

I am happy the six police officers will stand trial for the death of Freddie Gray. I hope that our city can move forward to peaceful protests to get our point across without violence.

Defending the city of Baltimore to friends and family who live in other parts of the country has been one of the hardest parts, but it’s always been difficult to convince outsiders that Baltimore is a great place to live. City neighborhoods define and segregate Baltimore, and for too long the rest of the city has ignored and avoided the neighborhoods where the violence erupted. At the same time, I saw a lot of the peaceful protests over the last few weeks going on downtown, and I was so impressed by how many young people are very aware of the problems that face this city and that they want to be a part of the solution. This gives me hope for the future.

As the national media shifts their attention away from Baltimore and the city searches for justice and peace, St. Ambrose continues to do the same thing it set out to do in the wake of the 1968 riots- encourage and support strong and diverse neighborhoods. Our vigor for the work that we do and our commitment to support the city of Baltimore is resolute.

New Workshop Series focuses on Investing in the Future

April 24, 2015 by

Through support from MECU, the Foreclosure Prevention department recently initiated a brand new five-week financial education workshop series. The course was designed to be a financial coaching course where participants could learn how to make empowering financial decisions and invest in their future.

On the first night, participants were encouraged to make a short-term goal that they could accomplish by the end of the five week course. These goals spanned from finishing the course to saving more money, and from rebuilding credit to signing a contract on a house. All participants who finished the course felt that even if they didn’t achieve their goal during the five week period, they had made significant progress towards their goals and felt better equipped to make empowering financial decisions.photo 4

The lead financial counselor for the course, Denitra, commented that she really “admired that the participants were so focused.” One thing that she asserted after hosting her first five-week course was that learning how to make better financial decisions is a process, and all participants had unique moments and lessons that led them to a full realization about what could be inhibiting them from reaching their financial goals.

One lesson that seemed to be really influential outlined the impact of your credit score on your ability to get a good rate on a loan. Effective strategies to take control of your credit score and rebuild credit were also discussed. Participants also agreed that discussions about goal setting helped to form new financial habits.

But one of the most effective parts of this workshop setting was the community that participants built among each other. It wasn’t just the lessons that enabled attendees to gain ground towards their financial goals; it was the companionship and support network that participants formed with each other.

photo 2

10 Things to do if You are Facing Foreclosure

March 26, 2015 by
Based on MD DHCD 2014 4th quarter Foreclosure report

Based on MD DHCD 2014 4th quarter Foreclosure report

The St. Ambrose Legal Services department has compiled the following tips for what to do if you’re slipping towards foreclosure: 

  1. Ask for help as soon as you realize you are in financial trouble. The sooner you ask, the more likely you are to get the necessary support to resolve the problem.
  1. Stay in contact with your bank/lender so that they are aware of your situation. If you are upfront and transparent about your financial situation, your bank will better understand your needs and interests.
  1. Do not pay fees for services to assist you with your financial situation when the service is available for free. Thoroughly investigate anyone who is charging you for financial services and what they are doing for the fees.
  1. Take advantage of free services! The state and the banks will inform you of free counseling and legal services that are available to you.
  1. Do not take advice from friends, neighbors, or family, unless they are trained in financing.
  1. Open all of your mail, promptly. Don’t assume you already know what’s inside.
  1. There is no way to get out of the debt obligation. Don’t bother looking for a way out. Instead, determine if a loan modification is a viable option for you.
  1. Understand your responsibilities under the debt obligation. A deed of trust is the same thing as a mortgage. A deed is the document that transfers ownership of real estate.
  1. Know your rights and don’t sign any contracts unless you fully understand the document. You may be offered a ‘friendly foreclosure’ at mediation, but thoroughly research the implications of this sort of agreement before signing any contract.
  1. Do not think the problem will just go away. If you cannot afford your house, start considering what next steps you will take in order to find a new living space.

The threat of foreclosure can be intimidating, but being informed of your rights and responsibilities can make the process easier. Going through a foreclosure doesn’t mean losing everything. If you remain informed and proactive throughout the process you’ll be able to salvage the maximum amount of your investment. Find help, resolve the problem, and look ahead to life after foreclosure. Call St. Ambrose for free legal advice and foreclosure counseling: 410-366-8550 

Share a Home, Save for a Home

March 16, 2015 by

Our Homesharing department has been matching homeowners and home seekers for 27 years in the Baltimore area, but only recently have we been making a strong effort to encourage this affordable housing solution for single parents. We contacted Brandy, a homesharing mom who lives in Northeast Baltimore to tell us a little bit about her homesharing experience.parent child homesharing logo final

How old is your daughter?   4 years old

Length of time home sharing: 6 months

Length of time it took to find a match: less than a week

What have you gained from Homesharing? From this home sharing experience I have gained the opportunity to cut back on my living expenses so that I can financially prepare to purchase a home.

Do you see Home sharing as a long term or temporary housing solution?  I am utilizing the home sharing program because I have a desire to purchase a home within this year.

What is something you’ve learned from your Home Provider? What is something you respect about your Home Provider?    I respect the fact that my Home Provider was willing to open her home to my daughter & me. While being in a home were my Home Provider is a home owner I have been able to witness the importance of keeping and maintaining a home. I always knew that it was a lot of responsibility that went into being a home owner, but this experience has given me an opportunity to see firsthand.

What qualities do you think make a good roommate? A good roommate is one that is very understanding, a good communicator, clean, and friendly.

What do you like best about your house? When I was in the process of searching for a home provider I was very adamant about staying in the same community. I didn’t want to pull my daughter out of the community and environment she was familiar with. The neighborhood is in a central location and in a quiet community surrounded by homeowners.

Is there anything else you’d like to share? I am very grateful for this experience because it is truly a humbling experience. Home sharing is great for any individual that is trying to find some stability and it will only work if you are willing to communicate and be patient. I would recommend home sharing to others. All home sharing experiences may vary.

Complete this sentence: Home is…. Truly a place where you are comfortable and you can relax and feel safe. ‘Home is where the heart is…’

Do you know a single parent or a homeowner who would be willing to open up their heart or their home? Contact the Homesharing department at St. Ambrose 410-366-6180 or via email at homesharing@stambros.org

There’s no place like it.

March 2, 2015 by

St. Ambrose’s consortium of six unique programs can at times leave us all wondering, “What in the name of Baltimore, does St. Ambrose actually do?”  In our 47 year history our different programs have served 120,000 Maryland residents from different neighborhoods, backgrounds, and walks of life. So what binds St. Ambrose’s programs and all of our friends and supporters together?

Home. Home is a place, a state of mind, a goal, a basic need, a sense of well-being, a memory, a scent, a sanctuary.

As a student and lover of both Portuguese and Spanish, I have come to understand that all the best words and expressions are the ones that don’t translate. Home is one of those sweet, unparalleled, not exactly translatable words. The word home doesn’t just refer to a physical structure. Home associates a structure with comfort, safety, or family. It doesn’t matter if you rent an apartment, own your house, or are living in your parent’s basement. Home is yours; it’s something to call your own.

At. St. Ambrose we know that home is something worth fighting for, defending, and working towards. Home is something that unites us, and we’re committed to working together to make home a reality for all.

What does home mean to you? Let us know in the comments.

Happy Thanksgiving from St. Ambrose Hous

November 27, 2014 by

Happy Thanksgiving from St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center! The offices are closed. We will see you Monday


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