My Sister’s Place opens for homeless women, children

A narrow, cluttered row house that had served as a day shelter for homeless women and their children has been replaced by a gleaming new center in downtown Baltimore.

A $3.7 million renovation transformed the former home of Our Daily Bread into the 16,000-square-foot My Sister’s Place Women’s Center.

Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien joined Catholic Charities leaders and others on Nov. 18 to dedicate the center, next to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“It’s no accident, I think, that this building virtually adjoins the first Catholic cathedral in the United States,” Archbishop O’Brien said. “As we cherish the divine there in the body of Christ, we cherish the divine within each one of those who knocks on this door, for they are loved by Christ. They are his sisters.”

Harold A. Smith, Catholic Charities’ executive director, said the center would help women “journeying along the path to independence.”

The center replaces the cramped My Sister’s Place day shelter on Mulberry Street as well as the former homes of two other programs: The Samaritan Center, which provides financial help for expenses, including rent and utilities, and Families That Work, which helps pregnant women so they can work soon after giving birth.

My Sister’s Place Women’s Center, built inside the skeleton of the former Our Daily Bread food program, looks and feels more like a hotel than a center serving homeless people.

The spacious dining room, where mothers and children eat three meals daily, features polished hardwood floors and beige walls lined by vertical lights. Three classrooms boast audio-video technology, projection screens and whiteboards. A common area seats a few dozen people on cushioned chairs in front of an electric fireplace.

The center also includes a children’s play area and facilities for showers and laundry and an outdoor courtyard.

At the Nov. 18 ceremony, members of the Catholic Charities Leadership Council poured water onto plants, symbolizing movement, growth, physical sustenance and the flow of God’s spirit.

“The whole idea of serving people with respect and dignity is something
Catholic Charities really endeavors to do, and I think our space really highlights that,” said Valerie Tarantino, the center’s program manager.

Letters etched in frosted glass on the façade set the tone for the center’s programs: “Welcoming Women to a Better Tomorrow.”

Case managers and counselors help clients prepare to search for housing and employment and practice good health.

In 2007, My Sister’s Place assisted 880 people.

The Our Daily Bread meals program moved last year to Fallsway, where the Our Daily Bread Employment Center houses the meals program, Christopher Place Employment Academy, the Maryland Re-entry Partnership and other services.

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.