Neighbors keep soup kitchen out

Our Daily Bread will not relocate to East Baltimore

July 23, 1999|By Amy Oakes | Amy Oakes,SUN STAFF

Meetings were held, petitions were signed and surveys were taken, and in the end, the people of Johnston Square and Brentwood Village prevailed as the Archdiocese of Baltimore announced yesterday that it would not move Our Daily Bread to their East Baltimore neighborhood.

Associated Catholic Charities, which runs the soup kitchen, said in a statement that community response persuaded the organization to look for another relocation site for Our Daily Bread, which is next to the Basilica of the Assumption on Cathedral Street.

"Clearly, the Johnston Square neighborhood's concerns are a serious obstacle to a successful relocation," organization officials said. "We will continue to look for an appropriate site."

Representatives of Catholic Charities would not comment further on when or where the soup kitchen would move.

Councilwoman Paula Johnson Branch, whose district includes Johnston Square, said Catholic Charities and the city have identified alternate sites.

"We are looking around the Jones Falls Expressway area and for a place that wouldn't have a negative impact on the community," Branch said. "This time we will be involved in the process."

Possible sites include a vacant lot near the Fallsway and Constitution Street, as well as unspecified locations in West Baltimore, Branch said. She declined to elaborate. Discussions on alternative sites will resume after the city elections in the fall, she said.

For the residents of the Johnston Square and Brentwood Village neighborhoods, this is a hard-fought victory.

Alice M. Coe, 56, who voiced outrage at the proposal to move the soup kitchen near her home in the 600 block of E. Chase St., said she is relieved by the news and credits the community for stepping forward.

"I'm glad it's not going to be in my neighborhood," Coe said. "It's a victory for us as a community."

Coe was one of many residents who became involved in petition drives, meetings and demonstrations, said Patrick Lee, Brentwood Village's community organizer. Lee was instrumental in making sure neighbors were informed about the move, which was announced in April.

Branch said she was not surprised by the community's reaction. "They don't let anything get by them," she said.

After a Johnston Square meeting last month in which residents expressed outrage over the proposal, Branch said she and Councilman Bernard C. "Jack" Young told the City Council that they would not support zoning for Our Daily Bread to move to East Preston Street. They also went to Cardinal William H. Keeler's home to discuss the community's concern.

"We made it very clear that we would not introduce any legislation unless the Johnston Square community approved it," Branch said.

Option expires

Branch said she was informed of the change in plans earlier this month when Baltimore Orioles majority owner Peter G. Angelos did not exercise the option on the vacant building on East Preston Street that he had been going to purchase and donate to Catholic Charities.

Tom Marudas, a spokesman for Angelos, said, "The option to buy was not extended beyond June 30 by the owner."

Angelos met with several local businessmen last summer to discuss downtown retail issues, including moving the soup kitchen away from the area of redevelopment efforts along Charles Street. Many expressed concern about complaints of aggressive panhandling, loitering and car break-ins attributed to the soup kitchen.

$10 million project

Catholic Charities intends to spend $10 million on the relocation. The effort, which will be funded by $5 million from the archdiocese and $5 million in private donations, includes a larger soup kitchen, added outreach services and relocation of Christopher Place, a job training center in the 700 block of E. Eager St.

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