By Megan Sayles, AFRO Business Writer
Report for America Corps Member
Helping Up Mission, a Baltimore, faith-based nonprofit that provides programs and services to men and women suffering from homelessness and addiction, is set to open a Center for Women and Children at the end of January.
The new center will be located on East Baltimore Street, just across from Helping Up Mission’s men’s campus. It will open its doors to women this year, and next year it will take on women with children.
The funding for the new center was derived from Helping Up Mission’s Inspiring Hope Campaign, which raised over $62 million.
Several years ago, Governor Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency to combat the heroin and opioid crisis in the state of Maryland. Around this time, Helping Up Mission conducted a survey that discovered there were far fewer long-term, residential recovery spaces available to women than men and even fewer for women with children.
This new center allows Helping Up Mission to address the opioid crisis and the lack of long-term treatment programs for women.
The 145,000-square-foot facility will be able to house 200 women and 50 children. Aside from addiction recovery and safe shelter, it will also provide health and dental care; Bible classes; clothing; and education and workforce development.
Southern Maryland native Pamela Wilkerson, who has a background in organizational development, strategic planning and ministry, was chosen to serve as director of the new Center for Women and Children in 2020.
Wilkerson was hired in advance of the center’s opening so that she could develop the infrastructure and programs for the new facility.
“My hope and my prayer is that through the work that we’re doing here at Helping Up Mission we will lock arms with other organizations in the community to really change the trajectory of what’s going on in this opioid epidemic,” said Wilkerson.
Helping Up Mission, which was established in 1885, began as an organization that provided emergency shelter and meals to men who were experiencing homelessness. Over 20 years ago, it started its flagship Spiritual Recovery Program that offers a long-term, residential recovery with full substance use disorder and mental health counseling.
The women at the new center will participate in the year-long Spiritual Recovery Program. It comprises four, timed phases with programming that ranges from support groups and spiritual training to employment and relapse prevention.
Success for the participants is measured by their commitment to sobriety, their introduction or reconnection to God, their emotional and physical wellness, their reintegration into society and their restored relationships.
“I’ve heard so many negative things about Baltimore, but Baltimore is such a wonderful and beautiful place. I think that we need a lot of healing—spiritual healing and racial healing,” said Wilkerson. “I think Helping Up Mission just wants to do its part through our programs and our strategies.”
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