In 1999, when an organization that works with the homeless population was given the opportunity to redevelop of the former site of the legendary Memorial Stadium on Baltimore’s East 33rd Street, once the home of the Baltimore Colts and Baltimore Orioles, into a campus of affordable mid-rise housing for seniors, many were surprised.

After the plan to erect the Baltimore professional sports complex (now home of Orioles and Baltimore Ravens) at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor was announced, prominent developers jockeyed for position to grab the prime real estate on East 33rd Street. However, the efforts of a burgeoning organization devoted to representing Baltimore’s underserved men, women, and families, ultimately won the contract.

GEDCO’s Stadium Place, which sits on the site of the former Memorial Stadium, offers services to individuals with mental illness and the formerly homeless. (Google Maps)

Govans Ecumenical Development Corporation, or GEDCO, formed in 1984 when seven pastors in Northern Baltimore joined forces to address the lack of affordable housing for older adults. The group first formed Epiphany House, a former antebellum hotel, now renovated into permanent housing for 33 seniors and older adults with disabilities.

As the group’s needs grew, so did the organization. In 1991, the group formed GEDCO, a development corporation. They also began offering housing for men and women grappling with mental illnesses and individuals who were formerly homeless and the group also opened a food pantry.

When the Memorial Stadium space became available, Reverend Jack Sharp, GEDCO’s founder, supported by area neighborhood associations, lobbied local politicians in order to secure the space. In 1999, GEDCO was awarded the rights to develop what is today referred to as Stadium Place, which over 400 seniors today call home.

According to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, approximately 29,670 Marylanders experienced homelessness in 2016. GEDCO President Perry Savoy notes that according to population experts, of the tens of thousands of individuals turning 65 years old each day, the majority do not have adequate savings and are in need of affordable housing.

Now in its 26th year, GEDCO continues to grow. It currently offers permanent housing to over 530 individuals, and emergency food and financial services to more than 7,000 individuals. GEDCO will hold its annual Thanksgiving Tribute on Nov. 16.

Nate Fitzgerald is a resource development associate for Baltimore based GEDCO, a development corporation.