In an effort to disrupt the cycles of generational poverty, City of Refuge Baltimore, the Port Covington Development Team, Weller Development and PI.KL Architects have unveiled plans for a new, multi-purpose facility in Brooklyn.
The project would transform a 30,000-square-foot light industrial building into a 60,000-square-foot City of Refuge Baltimore (CORB) facility that would provide housing, a food pantry, community kitchen, workforce training and childcare services to individuals and families in need. CORB, which purchased the building last December, currently serves 2,000 households (about 8,000 individuals) annually through its housing, food aid and job training programs.
The new facility would enable CORB to serve several thousand additional people annually “and those individuals will be reached in a deeper and more meaningful way with the expanded capacity and opportunities available, in particular with housing and workforce development,” said Pastor Billy Humphrey, Founder and CEO of CORB.
CORB, which can currently house up to 10 individuals, expects to increase that capacity by at least 56 beds and as much as 100 beds in the expanded facility, to accommodate women and children in crisis. A job center created onsite will enable CORB to expand its roster of training programs from four to more than 25, including plumbing, solar panel installation, information technology, GED and ESL classes, and other trades programs.
“We think that one of the greatest ways out of generational poverty is a good, living wage job,” Humphrey said. “Introducing individuals to the trades is a great alternative to college and a great path out of poverty.”
CORB expects the new center to have impact in other ways. An onsite daycare center will provide early childhood development to the children of residents, students and others, and serve as training facility for individuals working to become certified childcare providers. It will also provide members of the South Baltimore community with access to a health clinic, an expanded meal service and a larger set of youth empowerment programs.
PI.KL Architects developed designs for the new facility and the Weller Development Company is providing technical assistance to the project “by convening designers and contractors to formulate a multi-phased plan for the new space, providing pricing and assisting in development and construction,” said Jennifer Hearn, Development Manager at Weller.
The Port Covington Development Team has partnered with CORB for more than five years on multiple initiatives, including assembling Thanksgiving dinners to be distributed by the Maryland Food Bank and serving hot dinners to South Baltimore residents.
“It is incredibly powerful to be part of this work,” Hearn said. “The City of Refuge model has been successful at scale in other cities, like Atlanta, and our team is dedicated to realizing increased impact in Baltimore.”
Weller is also assisting CORB with a major capital campaign to raise funds for the construction. CORB estimates it will need to raise $15 million to complete all phases of the project.
“It’s a large amount of money to raise but we think we can do it and make this vision a reality,” Humphrey said. “One thing we always say around here is we don’t want to work with poor people poorly. We always try to bring excellence, passion, dignity and integrity to our work, and we think the plans for the new center reflect that.”