This week featured a lot of onboarding work, mostly in the form of reading about organizations, policies, and issues related to housing problems in Baltimore and nationally. While some of this information I already knew, most of it was very new to me. It helped me better understand the housing issues Baltimore faces and why they are so difficult to solve. Racial disparities, supply issues, COVID-19, and more all hinder people from accessing secure housing. As I continue, I will learn more about how St. Ambrose works to fix these problems, and I’m looking forward to contributing to that mission.
2021 Week 1: Nonprofit Management
RYAN AGHAMOHAMMADI | IMPACT HUB
This first week at Impact Hub, I hit the ground running — reading and reflecting on Impact Hub’s projects and missions, speaking with the team and the organization’s members, writing and thinking about what it means to both connect people and authentically tell someone’s story. Funnily enough, as I learned more about Impact Hub, I found myself thinking about myself as well. Impact Hub’s mission in the Baltimore ecosystem inevitably makes you question your own place in the ecosystem: who are you and where do you belong? One thing I learned in this process was that some of the anxieties I had going into this week — Was I going to do well? Did I even have what it takes, whatever that means? — were my own limiting beliefs. While I still have so much more to learn, and many new ways to grow, I feel confident moving forward in my capacity to do just that.
I ended the week by participating in Impact Hub’s Connect & Trek; in part because of the storytelling series I’m developing for Impact Hub, but also simply because I feel most myself in nature. I, along with other members of the Impact Hub team, as well as participants from the community, hiked for about two hours through the picturesque Cylburn Arboretum. As an avid nature lover, I was more than excited. We stepped over rock-studded streams, swept through sheaths of tall grass, wandered through a bamboo grove, and snacked on freshly-purpled mulberries. All the while, the group constantly shuffled — everyone had more than a chance to talk to everyone else on the hike on a host of topics: foraging, volcanoes, spiders and arachnophobia, the legacy of Medieval legal codes, and more. I was struck by how willing and open strangers were to connect with each other, both in low-risk and high-risk ways; all it took was a chance for it to happen.
By the end of the hike I couldn’t help but reflect on how community is made. One way is through these types of open spaces, through programming that actively foster and cultivate the chance for people to meet and work toward something together, whether entrepreneurship or something as simple as a hike. Whatever the event, it’s done together and that’s enough for people to start to see and recognize each other. In a way, it’s gathering together people on equal ground. From both the conversations I’ve had this week and from what I’ve noticed, people want to build community with those around them. Events are just the first step.
Before the hike began, I was given the chance to ask the reflection question everyone had to answer as we introduced ourselves. I asked, “What from this past week will you not forget?” To end this blog post, I’d like to answer it again. I won’t forget the power that first step of coming together has in breaking down barriers, both within ourselves and between others.
ELEANOR FRANKLIN | STATION NORTH TOOL LIBRARY
This week has been really exciting and enlightening for me as I’ve gotten to know my coworkers, the tool library, and the neighborhood of Station North. There is so much history and artistry in the district, and just being able to spend time in the space has introduced me to so many interesting people. Something that happened this week, though, has put a weight on everyone’s mind. The building that the tool library is housed in is a warehouse called Area 405, that holds the library, an art gallery, and many artist studios. Area 405 is one of many large buildings providing workspace to artists in the Station North Arts District. This week, the building was put up for sale by the owners, and has been advertised as an opportunity for real estate developers to put up luxury apartment complexes. Station North has been staving off threats of gentrification for decades now, but its proximity to Penn Station and the upcoming renovation project has made it more vulnerable than ever to developers looking to come in, price out locals, and bulldoze the area. The gentrification happening in Station North is just one example of a problem that exists all over Baltimore, but the sale of Area 405 could be a turning point for the landscape of the city. As Station North slowly falls to wealthy opportunists, neighborhoods that had previously been able to grow at their own pace will be more vulnerable to this displacement. The sights of gentrifiers are no longer stuck on tourist-filled areas like Fell’s Point, Federal Hill, and Harbor East, but are moving inland to the real heart of Baltimore.
CASEY LEVITT | MADE IN BALTIMORE
Since I’ve been working virtually and I’m not in Baltimore, I didn’t have any meaningful in-person experiences in Baltimore this week. However, in doing background research to get more familiar with the work Made In Baltimore does, I came across several ways that different issues in Baltimore affect the work Made In Baltimore is doing and the future they’re trying to realize.
One extremely important issue in Baltimore City is the lack of accessible, equitable, and reliable public transportation. I read once that even though Baltimore isn’t particularly large, the city has one of the longest average commute times in the country. The reason for this is simple: many Baltimoreans rely on public transit to get to work, but the various transit systems in the city are disjointed and don’t provide service where it is most needed. Many city residents have had to patch together commutes that involve multiple modes of transit. Furthermore, access to public transit mirrors existing inequities in the city – for example, the free Charm City Circulator bus routes mostly provide service to wealthy, disproportionately white areas.
One of the goals of Made In Baltimore in their mission to boost local manufacturing is to create more stable, well-paying jobs that don’t require a college degree in Baltimore. However, one important consideration that I came upon in my research is that public transportation can have major consequences for job access. Even if Made in Baltimore succeeds in creating a bunch of stable manufacturing jobs, it doesn’t do much good if Baltimore residents can’t physically get to them. Baltimore has a history as an industrial manufacturing hub, and there are many vacant industrial buildings that many hope will someday be occupied by local entrepreneurs. However, many of these buildings are on the outskirts of the city or in other locations inaccessible by public transit. This goes to show how issues are intertwined; local economic development relies on people being able to get from where they live to where they work, so Baltimore needs a more robust public transit system.
ERIC LYNCH | ST. AMBROSE HOUSING AID CENTER
LUCAS ROZENDAAL | WAVERLY MAIN STREET
I was pretty nervous starting at Waverly Main Street, but it’s been a solid first week! Definitely a lot of on-boarding and familiarizing myself with the organization’s mission and current projects as well as with the Waverly area. The task that occupied most of my time during these first four days was quite a familiar one from my days at Central Baltimore Partnership: Just like CBP, Waverly Main Street has a commercial business index that keeps track of all the merchants currently in the neighborhood as well as their contact information and information about the nature of their business(es). It’d been a few months since my supervisor had updated the index, so I figured that would be a great way to help me get oriented. It was pretty time-consuming (so much cross-referencing!), but I definitely feel like I ended with a little bit of a better sense of the area. I started by using SDAT and google maps, and then I did a physical walk-through on Thursday to double check that there were/weren’t any businesses that hadn’t set up shop on google maps yet or that had closed without that being reflected online. Unfortunately, it seems like there have been quite a few closings in the past few months from COVID-19, some of which are only temporarily, and too many of which seem to be permanent.
Overall, I’m liking the work at Waverly Main Street so far. In terms of social issues in Baltimore, I guess I would say my biggest concern is with issues of gentrification. Waverly Main Street is a community development non-profit dedicating to supporting the merchants in the area. That being said, they also have an interest in bringing new businesses to the area and promoting commercial development. It’s important to figure out how to do that without displacing the people who are already here–if we can’t do that, we aren’t really supporting the Waverly community, are we? Lots to think about.Tags: 2021, Fusion Partnerships, Impact Hub, Made in Baltimore, Nonprofit Management, St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center, Station North Tool Library, Waverly Main Street