Clothes, food are stolen from center for homeless

No arrests are reported in 2nd crime at mission

January 26, 2000|By Scott Calvert | Scott Calvert,SUN STAFF

Three days a week, Joseph House gives food, clothing and counseling to homeless and poor people in East Baltimore. Lately, though, burglars have been doing much of the taking.

Twice in the past five weeks, thieves have broken into the ministry at 1922 E. Lombard St., making off with a number of items, including homeless people's clean clothes from the laundry. On Friday night, burglars took several bags of food and winter clothes, and on Christmas Eve, dozens of toys and bags of food were stolen.

"It doesn't steal my thunder, but it does knock the wind out of me sometimes," said Sandy Johnson, public relations executive for the center, run by the Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary.

Police have not arrested anyone in the burglaries. The center is looking into installing an alarm system to complement window grates and solid metal doors.

Joseph House occupies several rooms in St. Michael's Roman Catholic Church, in the shadow of Johns Hopkins Hospital. When it opens at 9 a.m., a line usually stretches down South Chapel Street.

The problems are not new. Last summer, thieves broke in and carted off boxes of food. Then came the Christmas Eve break-in, when the center had dozens of donated toys inside.

"It was devastating and shocking and numbing because of the way they did it," Johnson said. "They just ripped stuff open and threw it all around. I've never experienced anything like that."

Johnson estimated the value of the Christmas toys at several thousand dollars. Determined to give the children a Christmas, Johnson bought gifts on her credit card.

On Friday, the lock on a solid metal door was jimmied, after which thieves broke the locks on several interior doors. On Christmas Eve, someone got inside by prying a grate off a window and smashing the glass. In both cases, Johnson said, thieves appeared to know which rooms to look in.

The thieves got relatively little on Friday, Johnson said, possibly because the previous day's snow made transporting items more difficult. Missing from shelves were several winter coats, towels, thermal underwear, blankets, and a few bags of food.

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