Guide Point: Beans and Bread protestors deserve support

Written by on June 9, 2010 in Guide Point - 10 Comments

Let’s get one thing straight. Beans and Bread is a business. It’s a nonprofit business, but it’s a business. It makes money every year, which is better than many other businesses around here can say.

It pays its executive director a handsome sum and the rest of its employees a quite livable salary, its revenues increase every year and it keeps expanding.

At the moment its latest expansion is threatening houses in the 400 block Dallas Street, neighbors who have been suffering for years from deliberate mismanagement and broken promises at Beans and Bread.

If Beans and Bread were a bar, it would be repeatedly up before the Liquor Board for the disorder of its clientele and its refusal to honor agreements made with the surrounding neighborhoods.

B&B was founded in 1977 by Benet Hanlon, a former monk. He fed simple lunches to people suffering from hard times. This work went on till 1986 with many of the neighbors pitching in to cook meals and serve, until St. Vincent DePaul took over operation of the soup kitchen.

That’s when B&B went professional and started to expand, and that’s when the neighbors started seeing things that disturbed them. Like drunks hanging out in Bethel Street, because while the nuns at Beans and Bread said they would not feed aggressive drunks, they did feed them—out on the street where their general disorderliness would not disturb the peace inside.

After St. Vincent DePaul took over Beans and Bread it quietly started looking for a larger home for the soup kitchen and made the move to Bond Street.

Beans and Bread pledged that the line would no longer stretch out into the street, that it would not offer a mail drop, laundry facilities, showers or beds for overnight guests, and that it would not need to expand further. The deal was made. This was in 1992.

Almost immediately, the St. Vincent DePaul Society announced the development of the Frederick Ozanam House next door to Beans and Bread. The new facility would offer a mail drop, laundry facilities, showers and beds for “transitional housing.” for homeless men.

Protesting neighbors were characterized in major media as snobs and bigots. The Frederick Ozanam House opened in 1997, along with an expansion of the “day space” at Beans and Bread. St. Vincent DePaul assured the neighbors that tripling the space at Beans and Bread would eliminate the loitering.

The line continued to stretch out the door. The loitering, trash and lousy sanitation continued unabated.

Last year Beans and Bread announced another stealth expansion, this time with the aid of Delegate Carolyn Krysiak (D-46), a member of their board., who pushed a bond issue through the legislature for another expansion. The plans called for building out to the property line in violation of long-standing neighborhood and zoning rules, adding yet another additional story in violation of long-standing neighborhood and zoning rules, and moving the entrance of the building to Bank Street, within a few feet of the Dallas Street neighbors. The City of Baltimore announced that Beans and Bread would be a “one-stop homeless resource center,” one of two in the entire city.

So much for St. Vincent DePaul’s repeated assurances that it would not seek or accept clientele from outside the neighborhood.

The Dallas Street neighbors took the issue to court. Last week they won a small, but significant victory—the Zoning Board has to actually explain how it came to the decision to grant St. Vincent DePaul easements that it would not grant to any other business.

The Dallas Street neighbors have been chipping away at other facets of the expansion. The Commission on Historical and Architectural Preservation has directed St. Vincent DePaul to move the entrance back to Bond Street, lower the roof line, and move back within allowable building limits in the neighborhood.

The Dallas Street neighbors are very reasonably suggesting that St. Vincent DePaul take its bond money to its property near Central and Baltimore streets, where there is room to expand far from residential properties.

They deserve our support, not our derision. These are not the rich-bitch gentrifiers that somehow find their way into nearly every mention of this issue. They are people who bought shells and renovated them. Their life savings are invested in their properties. St. Vincent DePaul has no right to ruin it for them.

—by Jacqueline Watts

10 Comments on "Guide Point: Beans and Bread protestors deserve support"

  1. DavidPun February 13, 2011 at 12:59 pm · Reply

    I can certainly understand why residents would not want homeless street people being attracted to their neighborhoods. I would not want it in mine so it would be hypocritical of me to condemn others for doing the same. However I was curious upon reading this article and did some research and frankly I am disgusted by the depth of misrepresentation and the snide attitude of this article. Beans and Bread has served Baltimore’s poor and homeless well over the years. It is now a relatively small part of St Vincent De Paul which is a much larger organization supporting many good causes. Even a cursory look at their annual report shows no evidence whatsoever of this organization making profits. Also as far as the report goes, St Vincent de Paul has a management staff of 15 people only 3 of which are administrative managers. The total budget for these 15 people was 377,230 dollars which is an average of ~25,000 dollars per year for each person, hardly a wonderful salary. If the top management get more, then presumably the remainder get less….and this is assuming that all management expenses reported in the annual report go towards salary.
    Frankly, the real figures based on the annual reports are at such variance with the “suggestions” in this article that I have to ask this reporter where she obtained her numbers.
    As I stated above, I have no problem with residents asking for facilities like Beans and Bread to be located in an area where it is makes sense and respects the quality of people’s lives. However, that doesn’t always work either. Catholic Charitie’s facility, Our Daily Bread, moved from a downtown location to a position beside the prison and even that created a host of complaints apparently. It would appear that some people feel that it is better to let nature quickly take its inevitable toll on the poor and homeless rather than imposing them on their betters. The city should play a more supportive role in helping these organizations find and acquire better locations.
    However, I have to say that if the people in this neighborhood want to avoid being painted as “rich-bitch gentrifiers” as suggested in the article, I would suggest to them that they refrain from associating with such low quality journalism based on questionable facts. However, to be fair to the journalist, I can’t imagine she is posting outright lies, so perhaps she can share her inside sources with us to help us better understand how these evil charities are routinely falsifying or misrepresenting the information in their annual reports.

  2. Mike Stanley September 30, 2010 at 4:24 pm · Reply

    I knew Benet Hanlon. He was a dorm director at Benedictine College during my first year of college in 1971. Over time he became one of my best friends. I actually beat Benet during a chess tournament during that year. We talked quite a bit. I took a class from Benet, entitled “belief and disbelief”. In 1976, he married my wife and I. I only saw him twice after that, the night that he was booted out of the monestary (he was shaking mad) and many years later in Washington D.C. Benet was without a doubt the smartest man that I have ever met yet would never make me feel less of a man for it. I’m so proud to have spent some time with him.

  3. FURIOUS July 30, 2010 at 6:59 pm · Reply

    While u are sitting in your air conditioning home on ur computer or lap top there are people out there dieing of heat stroke and in the winter freezing to death. I think its GREAT that B&B is doing all this to help these people!!!! As the saying goes a few bad apples will mess it up for everybody, instead of condeming the whole place how about u take pictures of the people that are doing the things that are “disturbing” you and ur neiborhood and show them to the police or the shelter managers? I’m sure not everyone their helping is “bothering” you!!!! Don’t get my wrong i understand with the fighting and urinating in alleys why you are upset but like I said B&B are just trying to help those that have NOTHING have a place to come to!!!!! HAVE A HEART!!!! GO TO CHURCH!!!!!! AND LEAVE B&B ALONE!!!!! GO AGAINST THE PEOPLE THAT ARE DOING THE CRIMES NOT THE PEOPLE TRYING TO HELP THE HOMELESS!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Nancy Caudill July 22, 2010 at 8:04 am · Reply

    I want to thank you for the excellent coverage of the proposed expansion of the Beans and Bread homeless center and community oppostition to these plans. As a result, I attended my first CHAP hearing on July 13th. Once again, the CHAP Commissioners instructed Beans and Bread to submit a design that shows that the main entrance is actually on Bond Street and not masquerading as a “fire exit” around the corner on Bank Street.

    “This is one of those issues where people lose faith in their government” was State Senator George Della’s opening statement in his testimony in support of the community’s positions. In addition to support from Fell’s Point community groups, there were letters of support from Delegates Brian McHale and Pete Hammon, and for the first time ever, a letter of support was received from our new Council President, Jack Young. Jim Kraft, Councilman for our 1st District, is also a CHAP Commissioner, and he has always supported the community’s positions on this issue.

    What has been sorely lacking in this process is support from either our current Mayor or her predecessor. Neither Mayor entered into any kind of dialog with community members on this issue. It’s time for Mayor Stephaine-Rawlings Blake to examine the City’s role in this process and determine if city agencies have followed their own guidelines and procedures in this matter.

    We welcomed our new Mayor’s pledge for ethics reform and transparancy. Now it’s time for her deliver on her pledge. It would also serve her well to personally speak with community leaders in the greater Fell’s Point area regarding Beans and Bread, and to work with them to establish a master plan for the Broadway Corridor.

  5. Bethel St Resident June 29, 2010 at 12:48 pm · Reply

    I would also like to agree with your insight to the issues that are consuming our otherwise quaint and quiet city neighborhood. I have been a resident of the 400 block of Bethel St for five years and have seen everything including drug use, verbal and physical fights, and nap/restroom breaks in the alley during the after hours.

    I am always researching and concerned with the future of B&B, the Perkins Homes, etc, considering their effects on the surrounding area. You mention a projected move to Central and Baltimore St for the B&B. How plausible is this? What needs to be done to make it a reality?

    What are your views on the Perkins Homes and their association with B&B? Does anyone have any news or discussion topics regarding Perkins Homes management or redevelopment? I see this area as an obvious sore thumb to the surrounding areas (Little Italy/Fells Point/Harbor East) in need of serious redevelopment.

    Anyways, thanks for the editorial… I fully agree…

  6. Joan in Canton June 16, 2010 at 7:27 am · Reply

    A couple of years ago, Baltimore County terminated a contract with St Vincent DePaul amid allegations that SVdP did not operate the shelter to the county’s specifications. Presumably, Baltimore County wanted the shelter to be run as a 24 hour emergency shelter. SVdP wanted to operate the center under a holistic approach and did not operate it at full capacity at nighttime (which was a requirement from the county.) It appears the severance had an unfriendly air about it.

  7. William June 11, 2010 at 12:17 pm · Reply

    I enjoyed reading your well thought out editorial. I would add that the Dallas street folks should repeatedly call the police to deter any crimes they witness such as loitering. East Baltimore seemingly has a problem with selective law enforcement. I have seen streets where workers block them all day with impunity and never are issued citations. Also I love the way you pointed out who profits at the so called non profit business.

  8. Steve Kadlubowski June 10, 2010 at 8:59 am · Reply

    Finally our voices are being heard and printed. As a resident of 511 S. Bond Street , I applaud your ability to print the truth about our community concerns and thank you for expressing our position in a most professional and factual manner. There are two good things that have come from this effort. A rallying of neighborhood support and the upcoming resignation of Carolyn Krysiak.
    I look forward to your continued support of the Douglan Place Association.

  9. Elizabeth Nudo June 10, 2010 at 5:07 am · Reply

    Wow! You said it. Congratulations to you for speaking the truth and standing up for my neighborhood. I live a block away from Beans and Bread myself. From what I have been told the zoning board and SVDP treated my fellow community members with very little consideration (and at times, very little respect) as the decision to proceed with the expansion by the board was made before the ink on the application was dry. You are a breath of fresh air. Thank you!

  10. Fells Prospect June 9, 2010 at 3:20 pm · Reply

    BRAVO Jackie ! Great Editorial

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