West Baltimore welcomes transitional housing for recovering addicts Most neighborhood groups say, 'Yes, In My Back Yard'

March 24, 1998|By Ernest F. Imhoff | Ernest F. Imhoff,SUN STAFF

Men who are recovering from drug or alcohol abuse will be able to avoid being homeless as they try to reclaim their lives next year at a home to be built in Mount Holly.

And many in the West Baltimore neighborhoods of Mount Holly, Greater Walbrook, Woodhaven and Windsor Hills are ready to welcome, rather than oppose, their new neighbors.

"We're fully behind this. There's such a desperate need for transitional housing for those recovering," said John B. Ferron Sr., member and past president of Woodhaven Community Association.

The retired director of the Community Relations Commission runs his church's soup kitchen. "People we feed and other neighborhood groups say the same thing," Ferron said.

An engine driving the idea was Georgine Edgerton, 72, president of the Mount Holly Improvement Association, who with other speakers praised the plan at a fall City Council hearing.

"Thank God, this was approved," she said. "We think this will make things safer in the community as well as help the men. We've got to get people off the street corners, moving on, getting jobs, being more responsible."

A year ago with $55,000 in hand and more pledged, Light Street Housing, a 14-year-old nonprofit agency known for creating affordable housing in South and East Baltimore, revealed hopes for a structured two-year program. It would be carried out in a new "transitional" home: more than a temporary shelter, but not independent living.

The agency has raised $1.2 million in public and private funds, hired an architect and leveled two houses across Clifton Avenue from Walbrook High School. At times the derelict buildings were shelter for homeless addicts and rats.

The agency will break ground in July in the 3500 block of Clifton Ave. at Edgewood Street for what will be known as Carrington House. The nonprofit group will interview prospective residents late this year and open the facility for 30 men early in 1999.

The director and associate director have worked together at the 42-bed South Baltimore Station, which has an informal partnership with Light Street Housing. South Baltimore Station is a transitional shelter with a seven-year record of accepting addicts on referral from the street. Carrington House will take men who are further along in their recovery.

The director will be Carlos Hardy, 42, a former Social Security Administration computer operator and, for four years, a recovering addict. He is the community housing director for seven residences run by Light Street Housing.

To remain residents, Hardy said, those accepted must find paying jobs, stay free of drugs and alcohol, pay a $300-a-month "program fee" and live in a structured environment that includes chores. They must leave in two years to make room for others.

Jobs will be a key to the success of Carrington House, officials said. Assisting will be Genesis Jobs, a nonprofit group that helps qualified people who are unemployed find entry-level jobs and checks up on them for a year.

Another partner is African American Men on a Mission, a group of 20 state correctional officers and others who mentor and tutor inner-city youths from their east-side base at Good Tidings Baptist Church.

"We're calling the new home Carrington House, for Alexander Carrington, one of our members who worked with children. He died of a heart attack three months ago," said Kenneth A. Coleman, a field supervisor with the state Division of Parole and Probation.

Neighborhood groups from four communities and the three area City Council members actively backed Carrington House, said Ninia Baehr, development director of Light Street Housing.

"We're starting a new movement in Baltimore: YIMBY -- Yes, In My Back Yard," she quipped.

Approval was not unanimous. Many of the 100 members of the Fairmount Improvement Association, along the Clifton Avenue corridor, were opposed, said President Diane Kane. "We were not informed about it and when we learned, it was a done deal." Some members felt that a transitional home near schools would not be "a positive approach."

Pub Date: 3/24/98

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