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Beans and Bread outreach center

Learning lab and day resource center offers more than just food for the needy.

According to the Maryland Food Bank, the poverty rate in Baltimore city was 18.5 percent as of April 2004, mainly due to low wages and unemployment, lack of education and skills, and rising expenses.

When St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore took over Beans and Bread, once just a meal program for the needy, it also expanded its services. In 1994, Beans and Bread moved to Bond Street in Fells Point in hopes of a new era of homeless services. The idea to offer Baltimore City’s deprived public more than just a meal was implemented by 1996 and the center now receives hundreds of visitors a week.

The Housing Authority of Baltimore City owns and operates 14,000 public housing units, places of residence where many Beans and Bread guests come from.

“Many of the people that use our resource center come from Perkins Homes right next to us or other nearby low-income housing. Some are not homeless and are trying to get computer training to find a job. Others live on the street. Some guests just need a little extra help while others need a lot,” said Stephanie Archer-Smith, director of programs at Beans and Bread.

The expansion to Beans and Bread offers adult literacy and tutoring to anyone who would like to receive it. The guests simply sign in at the front desk and sit in a waiting area until their names are called. Volunteers and staff members work with each client and assess what outcome the individual hopes to eventually achieve.

“Our learning lab has several computers that were once donated to us. Our volunteers show clients how to do basic computer operations, such as search the Internet for jobs or housing,” said Archer-Smith.

The day resource center also has a telephone available to make outgoing calls, as well as a mail service where guests can receive and send mail.

“We also have a volunteer nurse on staff that supplies basic health care and personal hygiene items, located in our Health Suite. Mental health assessment and winter clothing are available as well,” said Archer-Smith.

According to St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore, 2,028 people took advantage of the health care services in 2003.

For those serious about making life changes, employment counseling is offered. Through this program, the individual meets with a career counselor and discusses options for future employment.

Last year, 35 individuals received employment through the center, while 385 people received adult education, according to St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore.

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Transcription of Interview - Larry Sigmon