Birthed on the Streets of Baltimore
- Open Door Community Development Corporation incorporates as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization "to address poverty issues."
- From 2005 until 2013, Open Door CDC does business as Open Door Baltimore. The name is changed to Open Door America in early 2013.
- ODA commences a yearlong "best practices" R&D tour of 12 major poverty operations in New York City, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Chicago, Gary, Dallas, and Austin.
- ODA begins operations in the Brooklyn and Cherry Hill neighborhoods of southeast Baltimore. Despite their close proximity, the two communities present dramatically different scenarios for ODA.
- Brooklyn: A mixed-race and multi-ethnic population, Brooklyn faces many of the same socioeconomic challenges found in Midwest "rust belt" cities. During the early 2000s, Brooklyn is still recovering from the loss of shipping and steel jobs dating back to the 1980s.
- Regrettably, our work in Brooklyn is cut short upon learning our host community partner holds racial views inconsistent with our vision and mission. Two years of hard work and $30,000 of office improvements are lost as a result.
- Cherry Hill: An historically-segregated African-American community, Cherry Hill was created by the Baltimore City Council in the 1940s to house black veterans returning from World War Two.
- Following the surge of crack-cocaine in Baltimore in the 1980s, Cherry Hill becomes known for public housing problems, entrenched poverty, drugs and violence, and heroic community leaders who refuse to give in or give up (SEE VIDEO).
- Our principal partner in Cherry Hill is Miss Shirley, a 70-year-old grandmother who runs an unlicensed after-school for 75 children not allowed to participate in public housing programs--under the 1996 welfare reform law, the parents of these kids do not meet the federal government's work or school requirements. In the history of ODA, nothing surpasses the sheer joy and satisfaction of serving alongside this woman of courage and compassion.
- ODA moves into an economic empowerment zone in East Baltimore where it serves over 800 poor families (2008 to 2012) from five contiguous neighborhoods: (1) Baltimore-Linwood; (2) Dunbar-Broadway; (3) Ellwood Park; (4) McElderry Park; and (5) Patterson Park. At this strategic intersection of African-American, white ethnic, and Hispanic communities, ODA establishes a strong reputation as a street-savvy practitioner of pro-family and anti-poverty initiatives.
- While at 2611 East Fayette Street, ODA averages 25 new clients per day with these major presenting issues: (1) homelessness; (2) unemployment and under-employment; (3) drug and alcohol addiction; (4) domestic violence; and (5) persistent poverty.
- Thanks to the generosity and volunteerism of Baltimore-area Keller Williams realtors and their business partners (bankers, loan officers, brokers, and appraisers), The Church at Covenant Park in Ellicott City, MD, Greenridge Baptist Church in Clarksburg, MD, and The Church at Severn Run in Severn, MD, ODA is able to quickly turn a 100-year-old row house into a bustling community outreach center. While other partnerships emerge, these four anchor partners help sustain over 40 percent of ODA operations from 2008 to 2013.
- During these years, ODA begins to unravel the detrimental effects and counterproductive outcomes of The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, otherwise known as welfare reform or "ending welfare as we know it."
- Our key community partner is Stacy Place-Tose, the charismatic principal at William Paca Elementary School across the street from our office. Stacy's visionary leadership of this 600-student school inspires ODA to increase its advocacy efforts on behalf of inner city parents and school children.
- ODA begins a 5-year partnership with Safeway Grocery Stores, providing over $100,000 a year of foodstuffs and bakery goods to impoverished families throughout East Baltimore. On average, ODA distributes two carloads of Safeway products four days a week for nearly 5 years. Canton-Baltimore Safeway store manager Phil White is instrumental in starting this partnership.
- ODA staff and volunteers commence a yearlong review of internal case management and mentoring strategies. During 7 offsite working group sessions and numerous one-on-one interviews, ODA hears from scores of clients and family members, parole and police officials, therapists and social workers, healthcare providers, clergy and elected officials, and business owners interested in poverty issues. From this effort emerges the Individual Life Plan (ILP), a comprehensive assessment, intake, and maintenance tool that enables ODA to assist clients from initial screening to life-changing success.
- ODA provides training and consulting services to the Baptist Convention of Maryland and Delaware as part of their New Day Race Relations initiative. On four occasions in 2010 and 2011, ODA works with 40 white and 40 black pastors as they address historic and contemporary areas of conflict and misunderstanding.
- ODA commences a 2-year workforce development partnership with TRF Development Partners. ODA prepares, delivers, and maintains 12 clients in entry-level construction employment as part of TRF's housing project in East Baltimore's blighted Oliver neighborhood. See TRF VIDEO for additional information about this successful ODA partnership.
- ODA implements a 12-month construction training program in partnership with Baltimore City Public Schools and the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER). Between September 2011 and September 2012, 8 ex-offenders, some former drug dealers in Baltimore (average age 27), complete a nationally-recognized construction curriculum preparing them for employment and higher training in the construction trades. This program is the brainchild of the late Frederick William Mueller, a construction management expert and one of ODA's all-time greatest volunteers. We continue to miss Fred every day.
- In March 2012, ODA moves from its 2611 East Fayette Street row-house office to the Weinberg Community Building at 901 North Milton Avenue in the Milton-Montford neighborhood of East Baltimore. ODA remains at the Weinburg Building until December 2013.
- The Chief Executive Officer begins a 2-year term on the Baltimore Police Commissioner's Ex-Offender Reentry Special Task Force. ODA is recognized as one of the city's most successful ex-offender service providers.
- Building upon three highly successful years introducing the new ILP case management approach to Baltimore clients (80% success rate), the Board of Directors votes unanimously to create "an affordable and replicable model to address poverty in other locations across the United States." Critical first steps are taken in 2013.
- ODA is recognized at the February Keller Williams Family Reunion in Dallas, TX as one of KW's top community partner organizations. SEE KW VIDEO ABOUT THEIR PARTNERSHIP WITH ODA.
- The Chief Executive Officer lectures on the topic of "Poverty and Re-incarceration in Inner City America" at the June Maryland Police and Correctional Officer Training Conference in Upper Marlboro, MD.
- Toward a national presence, the Board of Directors votes unanimously to change the organization's name from Open Door Baltimore to Open Door America.
- To enhance affordability and replicability, the Board of Directors votes unanimously to establish "virtual offices" in Baltimore and other locations. Beginning in late 2013, clients are seen for initial interviews and case management/mentoring services at neighborhood restaurants and coffee shops, eliminating the burden of expensive rent, utilities, and insurance costs. Group meetings and community trainings are now held in church fellowship halls and other appropriate gathering places.
- The Chief Executive Officer lectures on the topic of "Economic Development in an Impoverished America" at the November Mid-Atlantic Summit on Faith and Culture in Columbia, MD. The event brings together cultural, spiritual, and business leaders from the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic faiths.
- Based on a decade of street-level work in some of America's poorest neighborhoods, ODA announces two client-services models for all future partnerships: (1) a Full-Caseload Model using one fulltime case manager to oversee 10 clients; and (2) a Half-Caseload Model using one part-time case manager to oversee 5 clients.
- The Board of Directors votes unanimously to expand Maryland operations beyond Baltimore City and to establish initial activities in Florida.
- ODA commences a 6-month ex-offender mini-project in the Freddie Gray neighborhood of West Baltimore. 10 potential clients are vetted and prepared for eventual case management and mentoring services. Despite unforeseen partnership challenges, ODA is credited with demonstrating the strength and validity of its ILP case management and mentoring approach. Follow-on partnering is under consideration.
- Click here to learn more about OUR DNA and OUR PATH.
From Our Blog
2018 Poverty and the Urgency of Prisoner Reentry and Life Restoration
Since 2005 Open Door America has worked to unlock the secret codes of intergenerational poverty in America’s inner cities. Now in year thirteen, our story has greater meaning and urgency than ever before. Having come on line just nine years after metamorphic welfare reform in 1996, we were an immediate beneficiary of the raised social awareness generated by the faith-based initiative movement of the early 2000's. By the end of our first decade, however, a sharp decline in nationwide community development investment, especially in the key area of federal housing, shifted our thinking away from traditional block-by-block redevelopment strategies to individualized programming targeting heads of households, young fathers, and in particular, ex-offenders and current offenders who hold sway in the poorest neighborhoods. Today, 22 years into the nation’s endless rancorous debate over poverty and government spending, we operate in a political and cultural environment where the very existence of entrenched poverty is now openly and counter-factually questioned in Washington. We believe the lessons learned from our improbable survivor's journey and the promising potential of our current efforts to retrieve first-time offenders and restore vetted recidivists are essential to this discussion and critical to America's social and economic future.