What's in store for soup kitchen

Our Daily Bread: Archdiocese or city must invite host neighborhood into planning process next time.

August 10, 1999

WHEN Catholic Charities' officials announced plans to move Our Daily Bread out of downtown, it said it would take six months to assess feedback.

That was three months ago.

The plan has already been scrubbed.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore, which operates the charity and Our Daily Bread, didn't anticipate the stiff opposition of the Johnston Square neighborhood in East Baltimore, where it planned to move the soup kitchen and expand an existing job-training center. Next time, even at the risk of inflating the price of a prospective site, the host neighborhood needs to be invited into the planning early.

The church thought it would be doing good for Johnston Square, which is burdened by drug abuse and abandoned homes. The neighborhood, including the staff and parents of St. Frances Academy, a Roman Catholic high school, thought otherwise.

After City Council members vowed to block the move without community support, Catholic Charities abandoned the plan and Orioles' principal owner Peter G. Angelos surrendered his option to buy the building chosen for he soup kitchen and service center.

The archdiocese says it's still determined to address legitimate concerns from business people and others who want the popular soup kitchen moved from its prominent location across from the Enoch Pratt Central Library.

So it's back to the drawing board -- but it's more complicated than that. Now, two entities are looking to create a multiservice center for the poor.

City officials are setting up a broad-based task force to examine creating a "day resource center," among other initiatives, to help the poor.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, city housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III and members of the nonprofit Center for Poverty Solutions toured several cities last year to study their responses to hunger and homelessness. If the task force ultimately identifies a site for such a center, it could include Our Daily Bread as a tenant -- but such a resolution seems a long way off, especially with a new mayoral administration bound for City Hall.

Whether the church, the city or both find a suitable site for a center to feed and train the poor, getting the neighborhood to buy in before plans are announced is critical.

Opposition to a soup kitchen in someone's back yard is as certain as the growing need to feed the hungry.

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