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Paul’s Place helping to 'stabilize' southwest Baltimore

Stacy M. Brown | 3/4/2016, 9 a.m.
For 35 years, Paul’s Place has provided emergency assistance to individuals and families who are faced with an expense they ...

For 35 years, Paul’s Place has provided emergency assistance to individuals and families who are faced with an expense they are unable to pay.

Whether it’s the crisis of eviction, the imminent shutting off of a utility or other one-time emergencies, Paul’s Place has helped to meet the financial needs of residents and assisted them toward self-sufficiency.

“We started serving lunch 35 years ago because there were many who needed food,” said Sadie Smith, the deputy director at Paul’s Place, a catalyst and a leader for change and improving the quality of life in the Washington Village/Pigtown neighborhood as well as surrounding Southwest Baltimore communities.

“Across the city there’s a lot of work to be done and so much can be done with the right resources,” said Smith, who noted that the ultimate goal is that there no longer is a need for a Paul’s Place.

The nonprofit’s vision is that by 2020, individuals and families living in Southwest Baltimore will have full access to high-quality healthcare, education, employment, and housing along with other support necessary for stability and self-sufficiency.

Funded by private foundations, individuals and local government, Paul’s Place recently began the “Stable Home Project,” which seeks to link guests to safe housing in a timely manner.

The program offers structured assistance for obtaining or maintaining housing, including housing searches, landlord collaboration, and startup support to ensure that the process of accessing new housing or retaining current housing is as rapid and easy to navigate as possible, according to Smith.

“In order to be eligible, an individual has to have a court-order of eviction. So, we’re dealing with those in crisis, on the verge of eviction,” Smith said. “Oftentimes, they are facing urgent eviction and they also maybe dealing with other issues that are pretty challenging in that moment of crisis.”

The Stable Home Project focuses on eviction prevention for some individuals and rapid re-housing for others.

Rapid re-housing places a priority on moving a family or individual experiencing homelessness into permanent housing as quickly as possible, ideally within 30 days of becoming homeless and entering a program, according to Smith.

Eviction prevention focuses on those who have been pushed to the brink of homelessness by unforeseen hardships and limited resources.

In 2015, Paul’s Place assisted 75 families in Baltimore with eviction prevention and 25 with rapid re-housing, a program that also includes enrolling guests in educational and skill-building opportunities as well as individualized goal planning and service coordination, all with a case manager.

“Our funding allows us to meet the unique financial needs of our guests and help them to move beyond crisis to self-sufficiency,” Smith said. “Historically, we did a lot of one-touch financial assistance. Maybe someone needed help with an electricity bill and that person would come in at the same time every year. Now, we’re enhancing that and determining what can we do to help the individual not to come back next year. So, we’re working with the individual for six or 12 months.”

The services are all part of the continued evolution of Paul’s Place, which began in 1982 as a soup kitchen where soup and sandwiches was served twice a week. Within two years, volunteers began preparing larger meals and then a hot lunch program soon began and expanded to seven days a week.

A Saturday morning and summer camp for children in the community was added and by the end of the fifth year, Paul’s Place had established a Nurses’ Clinic to provide basic health screenings to homeless and uninsured members of the community.

Addressing homelessness, clothing and food distribution programs also became a staple, as officials at Paul’s Place recognized that these services were greatly needed in the community.

Today, more than 24 services and programs are available to low-income individuals and families in the community and Paul’s Place has vowed to continue to expand its programs and to partner with other organizations to help meet its mission of improving the quality of life in Washington Village/Pigtown.

“We have a wider open door,” Smith said. “Paul’s Place is so unique because we have so many services in one place. We tell people to come in and ask because we have pretty robust funding sources and we can always direct people to the right place to fill their needs.”