Cierra Jones and her two-year-old niece Angelique spent a few precious hours at the Perkins Community housing headquarters in East Baltimore on the afternoon of Friday February 22, 2019.
Their time was “well-spent,” according to Jones, a three-year resident at one of the city's five federally funded housing apartment complexes. Thanks to a collaborative effort between the Baltimore City Community Action Partnership (BCCAP) and St. Louis-based Urban Strategies, Inc. (USI), about 100 family households, including Jones and her four young children, were invited to a kick-off "Food Commodity Day" initiative where the two agencies provided residents with information and resources about eating healthy and financial literacy and strategies, in addition to free (uncooked) food staples for generating healthy meals in the home.
Lori Cunningham, director of Baltimore City Community Action Partnership, further explained that the event is the first of an ongoing project in accordance with the Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC) and a $30 million federally subsidized Choice Neighborhood Grant administered through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Held at the Perkins Community headquarters, which is located in the 1400 block of Gough Street near the Fells Point neighborhood, the event was a debut-kick-off of a program set to occur twice a month through 2022 to benefit the remaining 500 family households at Perkins Homes, plus the residents in the greater Perkins-Somerset-Oldtown neighborhoods.
Cunningham says the new project is in-synch with the city’s priority of building stronger neighborhoods. “BCCAP aims to reduce and prevent causes and effects of poverty by providing resources to educate the community and promote economic and housing stability.”
Urban Strategies, Inc. is a national non-profit group with 40 years experience in developing human capital strategies for communities undergoing comprehensive physical revitalization.
The Perkins Housing Community is targeted for major renovations, which could impact residents over the next several years. According to the Baltimore City Housing Authority's website, the complex will undergo major renovations which could possibly temporarily displace some of its 1,400 residents, who currently live in nearly 700 units.
Conversely, officials have urged that existing tenants not be displaced, but instead be relocated to existing vacant units during construction of the multi-phase project.
Some units within the facility are reportedly inundated with rodents and roaches, and some long-term residents enthusiastically favor razing the dwellings. During her three-year stay, Cierra Jones says she has no major complaints.
“It's relatively safe here and normally quiet,” said the mother of four, including a set of nine-year-old twins. However, Jones, 28, says she is "all-in" for razing the current property and supports plans to institute a proposed mixed-use, residential-commercial combination property style.
Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh was unable to attend the event but is very supportive of the program, according to Cunningham.
"Redeveloping our most distressed communities and improving the amenities available to Baltimore City residents are major goals of my administration,” she said in a recently published statement. “The Perkins transformation project will incorporate a neighborhood plan that combines new housing, infrastructure improvements, economic development, public safety strategies, and enhanced educational opportunities for the community."
Renovation efforts at Perkins Community are likewise funded through HUD’s $30 million Choice Neighborhoods Grant Initiative.