Apartments give women fighting substance abuse a place to call home

Nonprofit group to operate shelter in East Baltimore

March 20, 2001|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

Dayspring House, a $2.8 million shelter that will provide 18 two- and three-bedroom apartments for women in drug treatment and their families, is set to open in East Baltimore.

At a dedication ceremony yesterday, clergy, government officials, neighborhood activists and social services workers toured the three-story building in Collington Square that aims to put a dent in the area's drug problem. The first residents are expected to move in within two weeks.

"It is my ultimate belief that if you do not control everything around you, that everything around you will end up controlling you," said the Rev. H. Walden Wilson II, pastor of the nearby Israel Baptist Church and a catalyst for several area community service programs. "We will continue going after one block at a time, until every drug dealer, every abandoned house, every blighted facility is out of this community."

Dayspring House is the third piece of the complex owned by the Collington Square Nonprofit Corp., a social services outreach Wilson started eight years ago.

More than a decade ago, he took his congregation to the streets to pray for the community's revitalization in what he called the "Sanctuary Without Walls." He organized the Collington Square Nonprofit Corp., which secured nearly $900,000 in state bonds to build the Mattie B. Uzzle Outreach Center, a 20-bed shelter for men undergoing drug treatment. It has served nearly 900 men.

The nonprofit organization, with funding and construction arranged by the Episcopal Housing Corp., has since turned three vacant rowhouses a block from the church into one group home, the Walden Oxford House, to provide transitional housing for women and their children.

Dayspring House is the latest element. The furnished apartments will be managed by Dayspring Programs Inc., an East Baltimore-based substance abuse outreach organization. The women will be enrolled in a Johns Hopkins Hospital treatment program. After completing the program, they will receive housing assistance.

Dayspring House also will offer a Head Start child care program. Dayspring will be one of three programs in the state that houses women with their children while they undergo drug treatment, said Pamela Talabis, executive director of Dayspring Programs. "Most parents don't want to leave their children while they're in treatment," she said.

Dayspring House was built with the help of an $800,000 loan and a $700,000 grant from the state, a $390,000 grant from the Baltimore Department of Housing and Community Development and a $400,000 grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Additional funding was provided by the Abell Foundation, the Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta/BB&T Federal Savings Bank, the Baltimore Office of Homeless Services, the William G. Baker Jr. Memorial Fund and the France-Merrick Foundation.

Ella Durant, president of the Collington Square Neighborhood Association, said the opening of Dayspring House signals hope.

"Every community has drug activity," said Durant, who 4 1/2 years ago moved with her husband, Bruce, back to the house she grew up in. "You can either have your people on the corner, or in the rehab centers."

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