Saturday's beautiful weather matched the optimism and excitement around the grand opening of Sojourner Place at Oliver.
Giant inflatable basketball nets, a "Welcome Home" banner, and the smell of a tasty cookout underway greeted 285 community partners, Oliver residents, future tenants, volunteers and elected officials as they gathered at 1202 E. Preston Street.
"This project is special to me. On my way to work, I saw every stage," said Mayor Brandon Scott.
"Today we take an important step: Sojourner Place at Oliver is about reversing inequity and the purposeful disinvestment in Black communities. Housing is a human right and affordable housing is one of the most powerful tools we have. It improves quality of life across the board. This is just the beginning!"
After fourteen months of construction, co-developers Episcopal Housing Corporation and Health Care for the Homeless, opened the doors to 70 new affordable apartments, with half for individuals and families exiting homelessness. Our Board of Directors, staff and members from The People's Association of Oliver Community, Baltimore Oliver Community Association, 6th Branch and Dr. Bernard Harris Elementary School all joined in the festivities, including tours of the four story building complete with shared spaces for a library, gym, game room and computer lab.
Every partner who stepped to the podium echoed the importance of housing for the entire community.
"We should ensure housing is affordable and stays that way," said Councilman Robert Stokes, Sr. "Community is connected to housing. Workforce is connected to housing. Education is connected to housing," furthered Senator Cory McCray. Brien O'Toole of the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development added, "It's a struggle to live with low income. It's catastrophic to live without a home. This building will be the foundation for new lives."
The outpouring of support—the speakers and institutions they represent, and the array of community parters and funders in attendance—is indicative of the cross-sectional work that it takes to bring affordable housing into being. We all agree that housing matters and is worth the work. And we agree that Sojourner Place at Oliver is just a start.
Housing Authority of Baltimore City's Janet Abrahams advertised at the podium, "For any developers in the audience, we welcome you to the table!" And as Irene Augustin, Director of the Mayor's Office of Homeless Services put it, "Housing ends homelessness. I want to go to more ribbon cuttings!"
Special Thank You to our Grand Opening Speakers
- Councilman Robert Stokes, Sr.
Baltimore City Council, District 12
- Mayor Brandon Scott
- Senator Cory McCray
Maryland General Assembly, District 45
- Alice Kennedy, Commissioner
Baltimore City Department of Housing and Community Development
- Irene Agustin, Director
Mayor’s Office of Homeless Services
- Janet Abrahams, President/Chief Executive Officer
Housing Authority of Baltimore City
- Brien O’Toole, Chief of Housing Production
Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development
- Janet Currie, President
Bank of America Greater Maryland
- Amy Kleine, Senior Program Director
Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation
- Daniel McCarthy, Executive Director
Episcopal Housing Corporation
- Kevin Lindamood, President and CEO
Health Care for the Homeless