A Path Toward the Future

Stephen is a 23 year old young man who was born and raised in East Baltimore, Maryland. As a preteen, Stephen started exploring the City on his own and found himself making bad decisions about the direction of his life. Being a very private person who guards his family story and traumatic experiences close to his heart, Stephen knew he had to make some serious life changes. 

As a result of sleeping in his car for almost a year and a half, Stephen’s friend mentioned that St. Ambrose may be able to help. The path towards his future began with him being accepted into the Host Home Program at St. Ambrose. The process was a smooth transition for Stephen because it provided him a place to stay with a much higher level of comfort. He currently lives with a Host Home provider in West Baltimore with another associate of the St. Ambrose family. Today, Stephen is learning to become a professional driver.

If you are considering hosting a youth in your home, this is Stephen’s message to you: “I would like for people to have respect, faith, and patience with the youth and try to understand where they are coming from. Home to me is a place where you KNOW you can go anytime; somewhere you feel safe and comfortable.”

Interested is learning more about Homesharing and the Host Home Program at St. Ambrose? While we are not currently creating new matches at this time, Homesharing at St. Ambrose is still here for you. For questions or concerns, please reach out to us by calling 410-366-8550 ext. 248.

One Day at a Time

Jasmines’ story is one that resonates with many inner city youth.

Jasmine Garland, 20, was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland and has spent the majority of her life living in East Baltimore. Jasmine’s mother was not present in her life and her father was very inconsistent in his role as her parent so, she often spent her childhood being cared for by her loving Aunt Barbara. As a teenager, Jasmine worked hard to graduate from Reach Partnership High School in 2017 and continued her education with Baltimore City Community College. However, life experiences dealt Jasmine several roadblocks which caused her to halt her educational pursuits.

During this time, Jasmine found herself homeless and living on the streets of Baltimore in abandoned houses. One day, she made the decision to seek help from the Joy Baltimore Program directed by Mr. Lonnie Walker. It was difficult for some to believe that she was homeless because of the way she carried herself; but it was all true. Mr. Walker then introduced Jasmine to St. Ambrose. At the moment, Jasmine admits that this was the happiest she had ever been! She was about to finally be off the street and living in a home, which was an accomplishment Jasmine hadn’t imagined possible. Unfortunately, tragedy came knocking at Jasmines’ door and she learned that her dear Aunt Barbara had passed away. She would now be faced with living her life without the one person who had always been her guide. But Jasmine tried her best to move forward.

The grief and loss began to settle in and Jasmine started to become more and more depressed. At times, Jasmine found herself in a room where everyone was there to celebrate her accomplishments, but she still felt alone. St. Ambrose stepped in to provide therapeutic intervention and Jasmine decided to continue services to address those feelings of grief and loss, one day at a time. During this period, St. Ambrose helped Jasmine connect with a home provider who welcomed her into their safe place that she could call home.

Since then, Jasmine has transitioned from the home sharer’s home to a more independent St. Ambrose program call Hope House. Hope House houses youth (18-24) who need more than the 90 days that the Host Home Program offers to prepare them for long-term sustainable housing. Program participants live in one of our two Hope House properties and receive case management services from St. Ambrose staff. In Hope House, Jasmine shares a home of her own with one other Youth participant.

“The process was very difficult for me because I had to get used to living with other people and calling the house ‘my home’. When I was living in an abandoned building, I isolated myself from everyone, and I was comfortable that way.”

Jasmine’s message to those considering sharing their home is simple:

“If you allow someone to move into your home, please take the time to get to know the person and set clear rules and expectations. We, as youth, need guidance and structure, not indifference.”

Interested is learning more about Homesharing and the Host Home Program at St. Ambrose? While we are not currently creating new matches at this time, Homesharing at St. Ambrose is still here for you. For questions or concerns, please reach out to us by calling 410-366-8550 ext. 248.

Welcome New Legal Services Summer Intern!

We have a new addition to the St. Ambrose team! Please join us in welcoming Shereen Ibrahim as one of our new Legal Services Summer Interns.

“I am a student from the University of Baltimore School of Law. The legal fields I am interested in are environmental, constitutional and national security law.

I chose to clerk at St. Ambrose because I want to use my legal abilities to assist members of underserved communities navigate property decisions. As a law clerk, I will be assisting clients with their foreclosure process, review landlord and tenant issues, and prepare wills and deeds. Serving underprivileged communities is one of my ultimate goals as a attorney and being a law clerk at St. Ambrose is a great first step in my legal career.” -Shereen

Welcome to the team, Shereen!

A Message of Hope

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears. Thou who has brought us thus far on the way; Thou who has by thy might led us into the light keep us forever in the path, we pray.The Negro National Anthem

It was a tense time! We were in national crisis, and we didn’t know how we could ever move forward. A black man was dead, our inner-cities were in the midst of a housing and economic crisis, we were engulfed in a foreign war, and people young and old, took to the streets in protest. The year was 1968 and the murdered man was Dr. Martin Luther King, and many of us felt like we had lost all hope.

In the past weeks, our country and the world have been witnesses to the brutal murders of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, confounded by the killing of Breonna Taylor, and felt the shame and sting of the blatant, weaponized, racist attack on Christian Cooper. For many of us, the events of the last few weeks have made us feel like we have come full circle – our communities dissected, our families destroyed, and our people crying out for justice.

Just over fifty years ago, St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center was created with the Civil Rights Movement as its backdrop. Our mission is to create and maintain equal housing opportunities for low- and moderate-income people, primarily in Baltimore City, and to encourage and support strong and diverse neighborhoods. We believed then that treating all people with respect and dignity was our responsibility and their opportunity to move forward. We believed our engagement with our community could help eradicate the systemic racial injustice that plagued our country. These beliefs are as true today as they were in 1968, and though we have accomplished much over the past fifty years, this week we are reminded that there is more to work to be done.

As we consider the events of the past month and walk through the days and weeks ahead, let us support each other as family, then turn outward and help our community. Let us commit to ensuring that the values and work for which St. Ambrose was created continues. And together we will march on till victory is won.

Yours in solidarity,

Gerard Joab, Executive Director

New video: Three things to know about paying rent during a pandemic: Information for Renters during COVID-19

St. Ambrose Staff Attorney Tim Darby talks about what renters need to know about Maryland’s current eviction laws and what they mean and how to have effective conversations with landlords.

As always, if you are having trouble dealing with your landlord, or have any other questions regarding housing law, please call the Legal Services Department at St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center at 410-366-8550, extension 209.

Legal Services at St. Ambrose copy 2

The COVID-19 Coronavirus outbreak has caused a lot of uncertainty for all Marylanders, particularly renters like Tim. If you are struggling to pay your rent in Maryland there are three things that you should know. Watch the video here.

  1. First, open and honest communication with your landlord is very important. Unless your landlord tells you otherwise, you still have an obligation to pay rent during this period of time. If you think you might not have rent money by the due date, get in touch with your landlord and explain what’s going on. They might be able to work with you to establish a payment plan or defer your rent payment to a later date, though it’s important to note that they are not legally obligated to do so. If you do work something out with your landlord, make sure to get it in writing.
  2. Even if you do not pay rent, your landlord can not legally evict you right now. Even before the coronavirus outbreak, landlords could not legally evict tenants without going through the court system and then paying the local sheriff’s office to conduct the eviction. Landlords can NEVER legally evict tenants without the help of the local sheriffs office. The governor of the state of Maryland has issued an order halting all residential evictions for the duration of the State of Emergency. We do not know when this State of Emergency will end. This means that right now, your landlord cannot legally force you out of your home, even if you have not paid rent or if you have been diagnosed with the coronavirus.
  3. Lastly: If you do miss a payment, you will still owe that money to your landlord, even though they cannot evict you right now. Our state court system is currently running limited operations, and every county and Baltimore City is handling matters differently. However, once your local district court opens up to rent court hearings, trials may be scheduled for those who have not paid their rent. If you get to this point, you are liable for unpaid rent and also maybe fees and court costs. If you do not have this money by the hearing date, your landlord may be able to begin working with the sheriffs office to schedule an eviction.

The most important thing to know is that your landlord CANNOT force you to leave your rental property during this state of emergency. If you are having trouble dealing with your landlord, or have any other questions regarding housing law, please call the Legal Services Department at St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center at 410-366-8550, extension 209.

Navigating Legal Challenges in the Wake of COVID-19

The current COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed a host of uncertainties in nearly every aspect of personal and public life across the state. St. Ambrose Legal Services is here to work with you to achieve clarity and confidence in challenging times. If you or anyone you know is in need of legal services, contact us today: legal@stambros.org.

Here are some of the questions our legal services team is addressing now:

Q: I recently lost my job due to the COVID-19 pandemic. What resources are available to me?

A: You may file for Unemployment Insurance benefits through the Maryland Department of Budget and Management. You can do so online at http://www.mdunemployment.com or via telephone at 1-877-293-4125 or 410-853-1600.

Q: I am afraid that I will be evicted from my house. Can that happen right now?

A: All foreclosure proceedings in Maryland are currently stayed. That means that no foreclosure case will process through the court system until further notice. Additionally, the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals of Maryland, our state supreme court, has suspended all evictions whether the property is owned with mortgage or rented from a landlord. Even in cases where evictions were previously authorized, Baltimore City and County have suspended evictions from taking place.

Q: Am I getting a check from the government?

A: The federal government recently passed the CARES Act, which will send money directly to millions of Americans. The Internal Revenue Service will use information from your 2018 or 2019 tax return to determine whether you are entitled to direct payment and the amount that you will receive. If your address has changed since filing and you do not have a direct deposit set up, you will need to contact the IRS to inform them. One way to do this is to call the IRS at 800-829-1040 from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm.

The Treasury Department recently stated that people receiving Social Security benefits will not need to file a tax return and will automatically receive either a paper check via mail or a direct deposit into a bank account.

If you have not filed taxes for 2018 or 2019 and receive income beyond Social Security benefits, you should file your 2019 taxes as soon as possible.

Q: I cannot afford to make my mortgage payment this month. What should I do?

A: The first thing you should do is contact your mortgage servicer and explain the situation. Your servicer may offer a forbearance, meaning that they will suspend your obligation to make monthly payments for a certain period of time. At the end of a forbearance, you will continue making the same monthly payments as before.

Q: I cannot afford to make my rent payment this month. What should I do?

A: You should contact your landlord and explain what is going on. They may offer to work with you on a payment plan or suspend your obligation to pay rent for a period of time. Your landlord CANNOT legally evict you without utilizing the services of your local Sheriff’s office.

Q: What should I do if I cannot afford to pay my utilities?

A: BGE has suspended all service disconnections and late payment fees until at least May 1 and will be working with customers to establish payment arrangements and identify energy assistance options. For further information, contact BGE at 800-685-0123.

Both Baltimore City and Baltimore County have suspended water shutoffs for failure to pay.

Could I be evicted_

Q: I have not paid my property tax. Can my property still go to tax sale?

A: Yes. The 2020 Baltimore City has been delayed, but may still occur this year. The 2020 Baltimore County tax sale is scheduled to take place in early May. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO LEAVE YOUR HOME IMMEDIATELY AFTER IT IS SOLD AT TAX SALE. Even after a property is sold at a tax sale, the owner has a right to pay what is owed (possibly along with fees) until at least six months after the tax sale.

Call the Legal Services Department at St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center for more information at 410-366-8550 extension 209.

Q: Can I still vote in the upcoming elections?

A: The Special Congressional District 7 Election (to replace Rep. Elijah Cummings) will be held exclusively by mail. If you live in the District and you are registered to vote, expect to receive a ballot in your mailbox in early April. In order to have your vote counted, if must be filled out and returned, postmarked on or before April 28, 2020.

The 2020 Primary Election will take place on June 2, 2020 from 7:00 am until 8:00 pm. Early voting will be open from Thursday, May 21 to Thursday, May 28.

Please keep up to date with the State Board of Elections as these dates and procedures are subject to change.

Q: What should I do if I need further assistance or receive a document that I do not understand?

A: You should contact the Legal Services Department at St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center at 410-366-8550, extension 209.

Q: Will any of this information change?

A: Maybe. This information was compiled in early April and all information is subject to change. Call the Legal Service Department at St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center at 410-366-8550, extension 209 with any questions you may have or to confirm that any of this information is still valid.

St. Ambrose Reflects

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.

What you’d need to make in every county in America to afford a decent one-bedroom

Originally posted in The Washington Post
By Emily Badger and Christopher Ingraham

Last month we wrote about a report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition on how much a worker would have to earn to afford what the Department of Housing and Urban Development considers “fair market rent” in local communities across the country. The government sets these housing rates, which include rent plus utilities, based on the local market for decent-quality apartments of different sizes — neither dumps nor luxury flats. These are also the rates that HUD uses to establish local housing subsidies.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition took those fair market rents and calculated how much a worker would have to earn per hour to cover such modest housing, if we assume a 40-hour work week and a 52-week year. They call this rate a “housing wage,” and it is, unsurprisingly, much higher than the minimum wage in much of the country.

The coalition focused on one person’s hourly income that is needed to afford a two-bedroom rental, a scenario that most closely applies to single parents supporting children alone. But they also compiled data on one-bedroom “housing wages” — a metric that applies more broadly — and the organization gave us the data at the county level.

We’ve mapped this more detailed data in the interactive below. This is what you’d need to earn per hour, working a 40-hour week, to cover the kind of housing that the federal government considers modest in your county:

county rental wages

Click through for interactive version »

Mapped in finer detail than by state, several geographic patterns are clearer. No single county in America has a one-bedroom housing wage below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 (several counties in Arkansas come in at $7.98).

Coastal and urban counties are among the most expensive. The entire Boston-New York-Washington corridor includes little respite from high housing wages. Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo counties in California rank as the least affordable in the country (scroll over each county in the interactive version for rankings; click to zoom). In each of those counties, a one-bedroom hourly housing wage is $29.83, or the equivalent of 3.7 full-time jobs at the actual minimum wage (or an annual salary of about $62,000). Move inland in California, and housing grows less expensive.

A dark swathe of North Dakota that appears to cover the geography of the oil and gas boom stands out as well.

As a commentary on the national minimum-wage debate, this map is limited. While it suggests that a minimum-wage worker can’t afford housing in Seattle (where the one-bedroom housing wage is $17.56 an hour), in reality that person probably finds housing by renting a room in someone else’s home, by living in the cheapest part of town, or by working considerably more than 40 hours a week. (Remember George W. Bush’s praise for the “uniquely American” story of the single mother of three who worked three jobs in Omaha?).

But this map does succinctly portray dramatic variation across the country in housing costs, and it suggests that proposals to modestly raise the minimum wage won’t fully solve this problem. While median incomes vary broadly by county, just as housing costs do, the incomes for people who work at the bottom end of any community’s wage spectrum do not.

Top ten most expensive counties

State County 1-br. housing wage
California Marin $29.83
California San Francisco $29.83
California San Mateo $29.83
Hawaii Honolulu $26.58
Massachusetts Nantucket $25.83
California Orange $25.23
New York Nassau $25.17
New York Suffolk $25.17
California Santa Clara $24.87
California Alameda $24.13

Thirty counties in Arkansas are all tied for the honor of least expensive housing wage, at $7.98 an hour: Ashley County, Boone County, Bradley County, Calhoun County, Clay County, Columbia County, Desha County, Drew County, Franklin County, Fulton County, Howard County, Izard County, Jackson County, Lafayette County, Lawrence County, Logan County, Marion County, Mississippi County, Monroe County, Montgomery County, Nevada County, Newton County, Phillips County, Randolph County, Scott County, Searcy County, Sharp County, Stone County, Woodruff County and Yell County.