With family homelessness on the rise in Baltimore County, St. Vincent’s de Paul recently launched a new program that provides shelter for women and their children—all in an effort for them to regain independence.

Sarah’s Hope at Hannah More family shelter in Reisterstown, is run by St. Vincent de Paul. On Sept. 10 they launched a new rehousing model, Front Door that offers women a place to stay until they are able to get back on their feet.

“We care for those in need,” Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said during the launch ceremony. “Due to tough economic times, homelessness is a problem that has increasingly confronted our citizens of Baltimore County.”

“Every night more than 500 men, women and children in Baltimore County are in our homeless shelters,” he said.

Alone and homeless, Lauren Nivens, 29 was struggling to provide for her two children. With the referral of a close acquaintance, Nivens and her kids were on the doorsteps of Sarah’s Hope.

“I needed to find a stable place for me and my children,” Nivens told the AFRO. She said she had her own place and was going through a lot of “trials and tribulations” and she was stuck, unable to pay her bills and forced to leave her house.

Nivens said she came to the program four months ago and has not looked back since.

“The program helped me get a better idea of what I want out of my life,” she said. “The staff is so supportive.”

“Our goal is to have families housed within three to four month,” Teresa Eaton, director of communications told the AFRO. “To ensure that these families are stable and remain stable and they don’t have to face homelessness again in the future.”

Through the St. Vincent de Paul funding, 100 of their rent is paid for six months. Thereafter, three months are paid at 50 percent with rental assistance, and 25 percent for the remaining three months.

The 90- to 120-day program accommodates more than 60 women and their children.

“Shelter life is not easy life,” Sarah’s Hope Director Toni Boulware told the AFRO. “People come here for a multitude of reasons.”

Boulware said women who show no outward signs of economic or emotional stress are frequent clients. “With no assistance from their children’s father and trying to maintain permanent housing on your own, is hard,” she said.

Boulware said upon completion of the program, “case management is provided for up to two years to ensure their success.”

“We are very excited to bring our Front Door program to Baltimore County,” said John Schiavone, St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore president and CEO.

Since 2009 and with the help of several key partners, the program have “placed over 100 families into permanent housing with medium term rental assistance,” said Schiavone.


Blair Adams

AFRO Staff Writer