Pastor Donte Hickman at Southern Baptist Church knows addressing crime and redeveloping East Baltimore create pathways for better lives.
“My hope is that the culture of violence and murders we see will become abnormal again and people will be able to live healthier and safer in communities of their rearing,” said Hickman.
Part of the redevelopment will come early next year.
The Southern Streams Health and Wellness Center, a project in the works in the heart of the Broadway East neighborhood, plans to provide access to a pharmacy and other health care resources. The center just gained a new tenant that’s also prioritizing health care.
Dwyer Workforce Development, a nonprofit and health care career training program, is partnering with Southern Baptist Church to put a resource center inside the Southern Streams Health and Wellness Center. The groups talked about the plans and signed a memorandum of understanding at a press event Wednesday afternoon. The wellness center is one of several projects in the East Baltimore Revitalization Plan adopted by the city in 2018.
Dwyer Workforce Development provides free certified nursing assistant training and job placement to Dwyer Scholars, many of which come as referrals from East and West Baltimore, according to CEO Barb Clapp. The nonprofit’s mission is in direct response to widespread shortages of health care workers.
Hickman said Dwyer’s mission aligned with the goals of the wellness center — and they’ll be in good company. Johns Hopkins Medical, Quality Pharmacy and other urgent and primary health care services are expected to move into the building at 1501 N. Chester St. The Mary Harvin Transformation Center Community Development Corporation, a branch of the Southern Baptist Church, will also have a workspace there. The over 100,000-square-foot project is being built at the old Bugle Laundry Factory location, which was demolished in 2018.
The resource center will help address barriers Dwyer Scholars might face navigating careers in the health care industry. It will include access to virtual health care training, taxes and insurance, open enrollment education, meeting rooms and more at no cost to Dwyer Scholars. The resource center will also be a hub for people to learn more about Dwyer’s programming.
The nonprofit expanded its training to Texas last year. By the end of 2023, Dwyer Workforce Development hopes to have trained over 700 people in Maryland and over 2,000 in Texas.
It isn’t lost on Clapp that providing training and simply hoping for the best isn’t enough.
“I just feel so passionate about the fact that we need to provide housing and child care and this virtual training environment to really keep fulfilling our mission of helping people, changing lives,” Clapp said.
In June, Dwyer Workforce Development announced plans to build a health care village in Sandtown-Winchester in partnership with Resurrection Sandtown, an effort that also includes a local church leader, with the goal of redeveloping land in West Baltimore to address housing, crime and poverty.
The health care villages are multipronged, offering child care, housing and resource centers for Dwyer Scholars.
Clapp said it was by chance that the nonprofit partnered with churches to roll out their resource hubs in Baltimore, but that “it feels like the faith leaders are leading the way, leading the charge to improve the[ir] neighborhoods.”
For over 20 years, Southern Baptist Church has been in the throes of neighborhood challenges, Hickman said.
Churches should want to take the lead in community development because “they are the trusted community anchor and stakeholder that have stayed through suburban flight and urban blight,” he added.
The nonprofit will move into a temporary space in the Mary Harvin Transformation Center at 1600 N. Chester St., which includes affordable housing units for seniors. Dwyer Workforce Development will be permanently housed in the wellness center once it’s built, and will let nonprofit partners use the space and access resources.
They’re looking to hire someone local at the resource center and begin engaging the neighborhood in discussions about what’s available and what’s to come, Clapp said.
Ballington Kinlock, a Broadway East resident and a health equity activist, wasn’t aware of the wellness center plans, but said the neighborhood needs better infrastructure that promotes healthier living. The existing food desert, as well as lack of tree canopies, green space and walkability contribute to unhealthy lifestyles, he said.
“Anything that’s trained toward helping folks regain a form of healthy living, I am all for,” Kinlock added