Wisdom from the Corners of Fayette & Milton
An Improbable Path
Our approach to poverty is simple and straightforward. We reject the argument that poor people should be divided into "deserving" and "undeserving" camps. We believe all Americans are worthy of assistance.
We are not a charity or government entitlement program, though both are essential elements of our nation's continuum of care. We are not a social or religious cause in the traditional sense, though we are guided by principle and grateful for the faith and civic partnerships that have come our way. We are not a one-size-fits-all panacea for America's overloaded poverty circuitry. We are the improbable survivor of a decade's scrum at the corners of Fayette and Milton.
We cut our teeth on the cacophony of Baltimore's court rooms, jail cells, welfare offices, and street corners. Along the way, we absorbed social failure and human suffering in a participatory way. Over time, out of necessity, we ran the gauntlets of welfare reform and the drug wars alongside hundreds of young adults caught in the crossfire. We came out on the other side with knowledge and insight unique to the streets. In the process, we saw what was broken, who had the power, and how we could make a difference.
The Individual Life Plan (ILP)
Although success isn't guaranteed and our clients occasionally swing and miss, more times than not they change their ways, exit poverty, and create better futures for their children. Our case management and mentoring approach known as The Individual Life Plan (ILP) has produced a remarkable 80 percent success rate when fully applied. Clients who previously existed on public assistance, private charity, and in some cases illegal activities, have followed this path to successful employment and contributory lives.
800 Families Can't Be Wrong
We make it hard to become our client. We've learned from 800 impoverished families that our initial screening and follow-on vetting processes hold the key to successful client outcomes. The hard truth is not everyone is prepared to take advantage of high-demand assistance at the moment it's offered. While we would never turn away people in need of food, clothing, or comfort, our ILP has been engineered for highly-motivated clients who are firmly committed to ending the poverty in their lives. Simply put, if you're not ready to do the necessary hard work, the ILP isn't the program for you. Climbing the ladder of success is hard work. That's why we're only looking for ambitious people with hopes and dreams.
"A person with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds." Mark Twain
Hopes and dreams . . . and responsibilities. Over the years, we've come to see that America wastes a lot of time and energy chasing rabbits that can't be caught. There's a fine line between being a compassionate nation and a sucker society. People will disagree but we know what we've seen and heard in impoverished East Baltimore. For a thousand and one reasons, inner city poverty is home to some of the most manipulative human beings and irresponsible organizations and agencies in the country. In far too many cases, there's little discernible difference between the aspirations of the drug dealer on the corner and the elected official or bureaucrat downtown. Bluntly, they're both big beneficiaries of the status quo. Change is not their goal. As a consequence, too many wonderful people with enormous potential have been pushed aside and left behind, lost in the bottomless poverty pit that has devoured hundreds of American cities.
Poverty is the crisis it is because we've failed to tell the truth as a nation. Modern poverty is as complex and multilayered as any other sector of American life. Poor people are not a monolith. Some poor people will do anything to change their circumstances. Others have surrendered to their fate. Some poor people are willing to trust and follow. Others are difficult partners. Some are ready to change. Some are not.
- We prefer to work with people between the ages of 21 and 35 (Exceptions can be made)
- Candidates must possess a state I.D. before acceptance in the program (No exceptions)
- Candidates must be parents of minor children (No exceptions)
- If previously incarcerated, we strongly prefer candidates who are under the supervision of Parole & Probation (Exceptions can be made)
- Candidates who do not possess a high school diploma or GED must be willing to earn a GED (Exceptions can be made)
- Candidates must have at least one family member or friend willing to be part of the ILP process (No exceptions)
- Candidates must be willing to meet with their Case Manager once a week for 2.0 hours
- Candidates must be willing to meet with their Mentor once a week for 1.0 hour
- Candidates must be willing to participate in group meetings with other clients
- Finally, in the immortal words of Buck Showalter, candidates must possess "the want to."
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.