By J.J. McQueen, Special to the AFRO

Within every Urban City there are major challenges. Challenges that have plagued generations. Despite those predetermined obstacles, there are organizations who care beyond the stain of history. 

Organizations such as the City of Refuge located in South Baltimore. It’s one that currently serves as an essential host site for community engagement, and distribution of life resource services. Recently, they’ve seen an uptick in families needing services that many did not have the need for prior to the pandemic. 

Baltimore residents receiving aid (Photo credit: J.J. McQueen)

Two of the most visible of those service needs have grown to be groceries/toiletries, and homeless services related to vaccinations, and (PPE) Personal Protective Equipment.  

Multi-cultural organizations like the City of Refuge have found themselves in a unique position. One that holds weight inside of disadvantage communities. The weight of trust. In creating an environment where families can see the needs of its’ people are being met, they have been able to extend the critical care necessary to help heal the community. 

Moblie Homeless Clinic (Photo credit: J.J. McQueen)
Baltimore residents receiving aid (Photo credit: J.J. McQueen)

This critical care service area is managed by the City of Refuge’s Youth Impact Director, Neal Carter. Carter is no stranger to the needs of the community, because he too grew up in a community of lack. While instinctively understanding the needs of the people, he also recognizes that community partnerships are additionally essential to sustaining those in need. 

During the early onset of the pandemic, a Baltimore Fishbowl article suggested that Baltimore City accounts for about 35% of the state of Maryland’s homeless population. Those are figures that many non-profits are working to combat. 

Homeless Woman (Photo credit: J.J. McQueen)

While speaking with the Afro, Carter assuredly spoke on how his organization has had success in supporting the community’s needs. 

“We’re blessed with a multi-cultural staff. We’ve been able to speak a number of languages to families and individuals that otherwise wouldn’t trust other organizations, it’s something that sets us apart from others, we don’t just represent one side of things.”

Homeless Man (Photo credit: J.J. McQueen)

Retention is also a great measuring stick for success. Without knowing the metrics off the top of his head, Mr. Carter also shared this. “When it comes to the young people in this particular community, we’re now seeing the same people comeback and benefit from the life-skills and job services that we offer.” 

In addition to offering front row food services numerous times a week, the City of Refuge also provides tender care to the senior population during the extreme weather months. This small attention to detail is one that now offers a space for seniors to become members of the food distribution volunteer team. 

South Baltimore Family (Photo credit: J.J. McQueen)

The special services partners element also includes being connected to the Mobile Clinic, a health care unit for the homeless. As a key partner, they offer behavioral health services, dental health, onsite vaccinations services, and a host of other critical care services. 

Carter told the Afro, “When the pandemic hit, we saw a rise in families showing up. We saw families coming from East Baltimore, West Baltimore, and the surrounding counties. We’re glad that they trusted us. We’re glad that they felt safe enough to come to us for help and assistance.”

The value of community allies transcends uncertain times. In these moments, and in this time, organizations such as the City of Refuge continue to be the lifeblood of the community.

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