With the expansion of their Front Door Program, St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore has taken yet another step in setting themselves apart as a service provider. Their services include, but are not limited to: feeding families, providing clothing and shelter, aiding in job placement, offering youth educational services and most recently, rapid rehousing for homeless families. As one of the oldest charitable organizations in Maryland, they are doing more than just maintaining the legacy of their namesake; they are making a genuine difference in the community.

Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake; St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore President & CEO, John Schiavone; The Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation President & CEO, Rachel Garbow Monroe; St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore VP of Development & Marketing, Jennifer Summers; and United Way of Central Maryland President & CEO, Mark Furst. (Photo courtesy of St. Vincent de Paul)

On July 1, part of the grant from the Weinberg Foundation guaranteed funding that will assist 55 families entering the Front Door Program over the next 3 years. At the city location, one of their focal points is to create a new model that helps them to understand how to better help the people they serve. At the Baltimore County location, part of the focus involves learning what helps their clients become more self-sufficient. The Baltimore County location, funded by United Way, has 20 families every year that go from shelter to rapid rehousing. At both locations, the clients are either referrals or they have come from another shelter.

The new changes, announced in a Sept. 23 press conference, bring a lot of excitement to the Front Door Program. With the rapid rehousing and shelter diversion, the program does not have to turn away families that have teenage boys or an active father present. Families now stay at Sarah’s Hope on Mount Street 90 to 120 days, down from the original one year stay, based on their respective needs. In that time frame, families are assisted in outlining goals to tackle such as employment roadblocks, financing classes, and even setting up bank accounts. The type of housing granted is based on the family meeting their specific goals. With St. Vincent de Paul being a humanitarian organization, one of the major points of success for the Front Door Program is not having very many obstacles. Program director, Toni Boulware and Mary Rhodes, senior vice president of programs, say their greatest joy is “being able to put families into permanent housing and help get them out of homelessness.”

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Tamika Dangerfield. (Photo by Yolanda Thomas)

Tamika Dangerfield is one of those families. She’s a mother, cosmetology student, CNA/GNA, breast cancer survivor, and a client of St. Vincent de Paul. After receiving a shocking diagnosis of Stage 3 Invasive Duct Carcinoma in 2012, Tamika found herself in a highly precarious situation: jobless, homeless, and wondering what to do next. While going through chemo, space for her family of four was tight and limited. She and her two children stayed with her cousin in her apartment on the north east side of town, while her children’s father stayed with friends on the west side of town. After applying diligently to the departments of housing and social services for suitable housing, she was disappointed to find out she didn’t meet their qualifications.

“You don’t know strong, until strong is your only option,” says Tamika, whose life continued to change almost daily.

With the help of Cindy Carter from the Cancer Support Group, Tamika learned about the Open Door Program. After one year in the program and 30 days in a hotel, she and her family moved to their apartment in May 2013. Over the course of a year and a half, she endured five months of intensive chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, surgery to remove 13 cancerous lymph nodes, a hysterectomy, reconstructive breast surgery and the sudden loss of her children’s father due to a heart attack. Though her journey was rocky and unforeseen, Tamika smiles and says, “Faith is all you can have.”

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