Coming together to support and invest in legacy and older homeowners.

Ms. A heard about Housing Upgrades to Benefit Seniors (HUBS) through her church, and she decided it was time to reach out. 

 “My roof was leaking. There were two sun lights that were also damaged on the roof. I had to put pots and buckets out to catch the rain…And there was no way I could afford to get it fixed.”

According to the National Aging in Place Council, over 90% of seniors say that they would prefer to age in place instead of moving into senior housing, but because older adults are more likely to live on a fixed income and experience limited mobility, they often have substantial housing repair and social support needs.

In Maryland, one in four households with residents 85 years or older and one in five households with residents aged 65-74 pay at least half of their fixed income on housing. In Baltimore City, 17% of all older adults over the age of 65 live below the poverty level. 

Concerned for the wellbeing of older Baltimoreans, a coalition of service providers and funders came together to create the Housing Upgrades to Benefit Seniors (HUBS) initiative – a network of organizations with a shared mission of helping older homeowners in Baltimore age in place.

Another partnership, Safe & Healthy Homes, founded in 2021, serves legacy homeowners who have been in their home for ten years or more, as well as homeowners over 65 in Central Baltimore.

Reducing the displacement of both older and legacy homeowners is foundational to strong, healthy, and stable neighborhoods.

Hundreds of older Baltimore neighbors like Ms. A are receiving home repairs and holistic support through service providers including St. Ambrose.

“When you get to a certain age these situations really wear on you. I have peace of mind now, and I didn’t have any peace when my roof was leaking. There has been so much rain lately. I thank God for my new roof.”

St. Ambrose provides not only home repairs, but also will preparation services (to ensure the homes safe passage to heirs) and case management to support older homeowners and legacy homeowners so they can obtain resources like energy assistance and assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Comprehensive, holistic services enable homeowners to resolve a variety of issues, including legal issues threatening their housing, issues affecting their ability to afford housing payments, and issues influencing safety and habitability.

These services include home modifications to facilitate safety and health (the installation of stair lifts, grab bars, railings, shower chairs, roof and furnace repair), and legal advice to avoid the threat of foreclosure or the threat of tax sale. They also ensure that the critical asset of the home can stay in the client’s family, helping to stabilize neighborhoods and build intergenerational wealth.

Our older and legacy neighbors do so much to strengthen our communities, and St. Ambrose is honored to be one of many Baltimore organizations coming together to support and invest in our neighbors and in the strength, stability and wellbeing of our communities.

A huge thanks to Ms. A for sharing her home repair experience with us and for Ms. W for sharing the stair lift photo.

Interested in Accessing these Services?

If you or someone you know is 65 or older click here to learn more about eligibility and next steps.

If you or someone you know is a legacy homeowner who has lived in their home for more than ten years or is 65 or older in Central Baltimore click here to learn more about eligibility and next steps.

We envision everyone in our community with a place they are proud to call home.

Over 480 community members call a St. Ambrose rental property home. One of those community members is Ms. M, who has been a St. Ambrose resident for more than 20 years.

“This morning I was standing on the porch, enjoying the view, and I thought about how it feels good to be living in in this neighborhood – knowing where it came from and now where it is. St. Ambrose has made it possible for families like me to be here,” said Ms. M.

Things have not always been this peaceful. Many years ago, Ms. M had to quickly leave her home with her three children to escape violence. When she was living in a shelter, she met one of St. Ambrose staff doing outreach. She took the opportunity to rent a home from St. Ambrose and has continued renting from us ever since.  

“St. Ambrose offers opportunities. St. Ambrose has been there for me. They work with you. Even with the pandemic – they were working hard to support families such as myself.  St. Ambrose helps; not just with housing, but with food, clothing, all kinds of stuff – I used St. Ambrose services to help with my resume when I was searching for work.”

Along with raising three children, Ms. M worked as a Headstart teacher and would also make time to support other domestic violence survivors. “I used to reserve a spot to talk to women in shelters. I would share my story and talk about how I was once where they are now. I always gave them a journal book with a pen, because that is what helped me. I tell them, ‘I want you to see yourself in the word success.’” 

“I raised three kids, my daughter became a soldier, she is a veteran, she fought in Afghanistan. My son is a nurse, and my youngest daughter is in the hospital, so I am raising her daughter. I’m not trying to own a home right now,” Ms. M states, and she let us know that renting is the best option for her right now.

“I’m caring for my granddaughter. This is a full-time job – being a stay at home grandma.”  

Ms. M says her St. Ambrose rental in the Winter’s Lane community is an ideal place to raise her granddaughter. She loves decorating her porch and gardening. And she enjoys seeing the community in action, whether it be seeing families come together at local sports fields or neighbors helping each other with yard work. “It really does take a village to raise a family,” she says.

We are inspired by everything Ms. M does for her family and community. And we are so grateful for the time she took to share her story with us. Thank you Ms. M!

Decoration’s in Ms. M’s yard.

It’s the perfect time to build awareness of your personal finances.

Many of us never learned financial skills in school or at home. Not understanding your finances can make the prospect of making it to the next paycheck, paying off a debt, or making a significant purchase like a home or car feel overwhelming.

St. Ambrose provides support and resources to those looking to improve their finances, and here, St. Ambrose Senior Housing Counselor Grace Parker shares how you can get started – one step at a time.

Step one: Sit down and look at your spending.

Start with one or two months of your bank statements and categorize your spending. You can do this using an Excel spreadsheet (click for a fillable budget sheet), Google sheet or an app like Mint or EveryDollar.

Start with the expenses you pay every month; rent, utilities, car payment and insurance. Then look into the other big items you know you spend money on; groceries, gas, phone, eating out, subscriptions like Netflix, and the internet. See where you may be spending more than you realized.

This is a good time to review and eliminate recurring charges that you may have forgotten about, like that HBO Max or Ancestry.com subscription. 

Step two: Build your budget. This will essentially be your spending plan. List your net income (what you receive every month in your paycheck after taxes are removed) and list your expenses. If you know you have regular expenses like manicures, a daily cup of coffee or a shopping habit, you don’t have to eliminate these things. Just be sure to build them into your budget and set limits for them. 

Step three: Use an excel spreadsheet or app to track your spending. Stick with your plan as best you can! We’re all human, and unexpected things come up. Make a reminder on your calendar so it’s hard to forget.

St. Ambrose Housing Counselors are here to help with non-judgmental support and accountability. They can support you in all of the steps listed above and can help you build a plan to reach your financial goals. When you meet with a counselor they can help you:

  • Review your financial documents
  • Identify goals like improving your credit score, making a savings plan, or making a purchase like a car or home
  • Create an action plan with you so your goal is less overwhelming, and is broken into manageable, monthly steps
  • Make a plan for what do once you’ve reached your goal

Interested in getting started or learning more? Reach out today at intake@stambros.org or 410-366-8550 ext 249 to set up an in-person or virtual appointment with a housing counselor. 

When women and girls rise, their communities and their countries rise with them. – Michelle Obama

When Ms. J. was 22 years old, she had already overcome significant adversity. Following her high school graduation, Ms. J. and her newborn son had been kicked out of the only home she has ever known due to her mother’s struggles with addiction. With no other housing options, she moved in with her boyfriend, the father of her child. This would allow her to begin schooling and obtain her Medical Assistance certification.

Unfortunately, this living situation became volatile, and Ms. J. had to withdraw from school and flee to a domestic violence shelter with her son. Now, from the shelter, she was marshalling her strength and all resources available to her in pursuit of a stable life for her family.  

Violence is a leading cause of homelessness among women, and is of many factors that contribute to women being in greater need of affordable housing. Other factors include continuing gendered labor market conditions that result in women’s pay being consistently lower than men’s pay. Gender based social norms also force women to take on unpaid work as well as significant expense related to childcare. Trans-women face particularly tremendous barriers to well-being such as increased discrimination that limits housing options and greatly increased levels of violence.

These realities cause women to be more likely to have lower income and wealth when compared to men, and to therefore be in greater need of housing that is affordable. Approximately 75% of those living in affordable housing are women.

But no state currently has an adequate supply of affordable rental housing. An estimated 12 million renters and homeowner households are cost-burdened and pay more than 50 percent of their annual income on housing. Having adequate safe, affordable housing is a central and actionable way to redress the trauma and exploitation that disproportionately impact women.

When Ms. J. was referred her to St. Ambrose’s Rental Services Program her case manager helped her find a job and an affordable rental property.  “The home was so big and beautiful! I never had anything like that before. It means everything to me that I have a nice home to raise my son in.” Looking to the future, Ms. J. planned to get a more permanent job, start college and see her son begin school.

In the face of destructive setbacks and barriers, women like Mrs. J are building better worlds for themselves and future generations. Women are doing the essential, largely unpaid and unrecognized work of healing themselves and their families from systemic harm. Women are also more likely to be involved in grassroots change movements, advocating for transformation and justice in their larger communities.

 St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center works toward a vision of the future in which everyone in our community has a place they are proud to call home. We stand with our clients, supporters and partner organizations in the continuing pursuit of economic and social justice for women and for our communities as a whole.

This article was written with information from the following sources:

Tax Resources

AARP:  

Offers free state and federal tax preparation services. Customers can choose between in-person and remote tax assistance depending on site availability.

Eligibility: Anyone with low to moderate income, with a special focus on taxpayers who are 50 or older may qualify.

Contact: Call 1-888-AARP-NOW (1-888-227-7669) or go online to the AARP Foundation Tax Locator. The caller has to call in, go through the menu options, type in their zip code and they will get forwarded to a specialist. 

CASA:

Offers free state and federal tax preparation services.

Eligibility: Individuals/families who made less than $58,000 in 2021, specifically Spanish speakers. May also be able to assist persons who speak other languages, call for information. 

Contact: Call 1-866-765-2272 to schedule an appointment. Someone picked up within a minute. They take down your information and have someone reach out to you from your area. 

CASH Campaign of MD

Offers free state and federal tax preparation services. Customers can choose between virtual appointments or drop-off tax preparation.

Eligibility: If you live in the Baltimore area and made $58,000 or less in 2021 you may qualify for free tax preparation. You must have an appointmentto receive services.

Contact: Call 410-234-8008 Mon-Fri, 9AM-2PM. Appointments are filled for now, but they open up slots with time. 

CASH Campaign of MD Partners:

Offers free state and federal tax preparation services. Customers can choose between virtual appointments or drop-off tax preparation depending on site availability.

Eligibility: If you made $58,000 or less in 2021 you may qualify for free tax preparation services.

Contact: Call 1-800-492-0618 or check out the list of tax partners offering free tax preparation services. See the attachment for a full list of sites.

VITA:

Offers free state and federal tax preparation services for 60+.

Eligibility: The filer made less than $58,000 in 2021.

Contact: Call 1-800-906-9887 and ask to find a location or go online to the IRS VITA locatorThey will need their area code, and the specialist will provide them with a location near them and help them set up an appointment. Someone picked up within minutes.

IRS:

Offers free federal (sometimes state) tax preparation services. Online services only or independent filing.

Eligibility: The filer must have made under $73,000 in 2021 to qualify for free online filing services. If the person made over $73,000 they offer free fillable tax forms for the filer to complete independently.

Contact: Go online to choose an online free filing service.  

Comptroller:

Offers free state tax preparation services. Virtual appointments available.

Contact:  For general information and free Maryland income tax assistance call Taxpayer Services at 410-260-7980 from Central Maryland, or 1-800-MD-TAXES (1-800-638-2937). Assistance is available Mon-Fri, 8:30AM-4:30PM. You can also schedule an appointment online.

A Legacy of Black Leadership, Community-Building and History in Winter’s Lane

In Catonsville, just two miles from the Baltimore City line, is a community called Winter’s Lane. Here churches, businesses, and historic homes stand witness to an important piece of Black history, and a legacy of Black leadership, community-building and resilience.

Because of the work of historian Louis S. Diggs, much of the history of the community is readily accessible to us. Through years of documentation and genealogical research, Diggs outlined the history of this community in his 1995 book, It all Started on Winters Lane.

The Winters Lane Historic District is the largest and most intact mid-19th century African American neighborhood in Baltimore County. The community was founded in 1867, just over a year after the end of the Civil War, and many of the original founders were formerly enslaved people.

Despite widespread violence, exploitation, and systemic racism, Black community members rallied together to build a thriving community. A school was created within a year of the community’s founding. Black businesses, such as a community grocery store, sprang up and flourished. 

The business community was bolstered by support from The Catonsville Cooperative Corporation, formed by Black Winter’s Lane residents in 1890. Cut off from access to intergenerational wealth because of slavery, the Co-op allowed community members to pool their resources to support new businesses in the community and to purchase homes.

Throughout the 20th century Winter’s Lane prospered, and was well known as a civically engaged community full of beautiful neighborhoods, sports, and social clubs. The Concerned Citizens of Catonsville, founded in 1980, continue to advocate for investment and preservation of the community and uphold the community’s strong legacy of leadership.

A photograph from the late 1980’s showing one of the homes before renovation.

In the late 1980s, a group of 15 homes in Winter’s Lane on Roberts and Shipley Avenues were rental properties in disrepair, with outdated features, like dangerous staircases and no central heating. The homes had been built in the early 1900’s and were in need of extensive rehabilitation. In a partnership with Baltimore County, St. Ambrose purchased the houses and renovated them with the goal of keeping as many original tenants in the homes as possible.

St. Ambrose brought the houses up to code and did substantial work to modernize the interiors. Great care was taken to maintain the original exterior appearance of the homes to preserve their historical legacy.  These homes are representative of the architecture of the time, and they are some of the few remaining examples of this type of structure in Winter’s Lane. 

In 2016, in partnership with Baltimore County and the State of Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, St. Ambrose began a second renovation of ten of the historic homes, essentially doubling the size of the homes and updating with more modern amenities.

 “When I look at those houses, I see the history there. It can take you back and you can imagine the people in the past, while also looking at the new generation moving forward” says Leah Mason-Grant, Lead Property Manager at St. Ambrose. 

One of the homes after the most recent renovation.

Today, the 15 homes stand as living pieces of history in our region. They also are beloved homes rented at affordable rates, with many housing families that have been in the community for generations. St. Ambrose is honored to offer safe, affordable housing in this community and to have been able to rehabilitate and preserve buildings as they originally looked. We encourage you to visit Winter’s Lane, look into the work of local historian Louis S. Diggs, and enjoy this song about the community by the R.J. Phillips Band. 

This article drew heavily from the work of many more comprehensive articles which are listed below.

It’s like a huge weight off my shoulders

Theresa had will preparation on her to-do list for a long time. An upcoming surgery made the task more urgent. So when we she heard that St. Ambrose Legal Services was coming to her senior apartment community, Essex Co-Op, for Wills Wednesday, she was thankful for the opportunity to cross it off her list.

This Wills Wednesday event was one of seven offered by St. Ambrose in the fall of 2021, serving 44 clients in total. Woodlawn Senior Center and St. Ambrose partnered to put on many of the Wills Wednesdays events.

Wills Wednesday events bring attorneys into the community to meet residents where they are and prepare critical documents like wills, advance directives, and power of attorneys at no cost. Many attorneys charge $500 – $3,000 to prepare a will, a figure that is prohibitive to many older people.

St. Ambrose attorney Jeffrey Hayes hands Theresa her newly created will.

“If someone has a home and passes away, for a lot of families – especially for those in Baltimore City and County – it is incredibly important to keep that home in the family to maintain home ownership.  This program helps people avoid the probate process. It makes the end of life process, which is hard and financially challenging already, a little easier for folks,” explains Katherine Donnelly, a St. Ambrose attorney.

In 2021, the St. Ambrose legal team helped community members prepare 121 wills. Legal services like these increase housing stability by supporting families to build and preserve assets and take greater control of their financial legacy.

As she took her newly created will in hand, Theresa stated, “It’s like a huge weight off my shoulders, it frees my mind from being worried and concerned…peace of mind is what it is.”

As always, if you are have any questions regarding estate planning, please call the Legal Services Department at St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center at 410-366-8550, ext. 209.