Don’t Forget Your Local Advocates!

Photo of Maryland State House, AnnapolisNow that we have a new administration and we’re increasingly seeing our laws being corrupted, and perhaps our Constitution being tossed out of a window at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, we need to remember to support our local Baltimore organizations that are advocating for the protection of citizens and fundamental human rights.  This is by no means the be-all to end-all charity list, and of course it would be great if you’d also donate to Housing Policy Watch, too — but housing isn’t the only issue facing our city, and maybe your interests lie elsewhere. These are the organizations I personally support in various ways, and hopefully one (or more!) are worthy of your attention and contributions:

Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle  While not a 501(c)(3) organization, they do a lot of important (and difficult) work in some of our most marginalized neighborhoods. Coat drives, toy drives, food drives — along with legislative advocacy and meaningful community organizing. And they do it with the residents, in the communities — not from afar, ensconced in an ivory tower downtown. In fact, the one time I went to their office, nobody was there — they were in the community (where I wish more of my colleagues were on a daily basis). Yeah, you can’t deduct your contribution, but they work hard, and supporting hard work means more than a tax deduction any day of the week.

Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland  PBRC coordinates pro bono legal services across the state as the nonprofit arm of the Maryland State Bar Assocation, and hosts community events where residents, especially senior citizens, can receive legal advice at no cost. They also provide training to pro bono attorneys, in order so they can adequately represent poor and underserved clients.

Maryland Legal Aid  In order to maintain a fair and just legal system, poor people need equal access to legal representation. Most poor people cannot afford an attorney to represent them in a civil suit, and therefore end up being evicted, having their utilities shut off, or fall prey to consumer fraud as a result. Maryland Legal Aid advocates on behalf of the poor, and also offers referrals to other needed services.

CASA Maryland  CASA provides a variety of legal services for low-income immigrants in housing, employment and immigration matters, during weekly intake sessions. Assistance in defending the legal rights of members is accomplished through mass education sessions, advocacy, individual representation and impact litigation.
In addition, CASA provides assistance in applying for a variety of immigration benefits before the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) including the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA).

Roberta’s House  The loss of a loved one is difficult enough under the best of circumstances. Many of Baltimore City’s children, however, lose parents, friends, grandparents, and other loved ones under some pretty horrific circumstances. Roberta’s House offers counseling, camps, and other activities for children and families who need assistance with dealing with grief — and they do it at no cost to participants.

Baltimore Abortion Fund  The Fund provides financial assistance and financial counseling to women who are in need of an abortion but don’t have the resources to pay for it. Ensuring safe, legal abortion services is important — particularly in a political climate where many would have women suffer through an unwanted pregnancy or endure a complicated and dangerous procedure at the hands of someone who is untrained and unlicensed. Keeping organizations like BAF going means women have choices when it comes to their reproductive health.

Planned Parenthood of Maryland  Many people are surprised to discover that Planned Parenthood is not, in fact, and “abortion clinic” but an organization that offers life-saving medical screenings for diseases that kill far too many women each year — cervical cancer, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, etc. They also offer low-cost health services to men, along with low-cost birth control.

Baltimore Heritage  With the destruction and neglect of so many of our historic structures in Baltimore, we’re lucky to have an organization like Baltimore Heritage keeping watch over what’s happening in our neighborhoods. Baltimore is a city with a rich, sometimes troubling, history — we need organizations that celebrate our history instead of advocating for its demolition.

Center for Urban Families  We hear a lot in Baltimore about the unemployment among black men/fathers who can’t sustain themselves, let alone take care of their families. We also hear about “workforce training” organizations that perhaps aren’t as effective as they should be. CFUF, however, is not one of those organizations. Since its founding in 1999, CFUF has been helping families and communities empower themselves through viable, hands-on job training, counseling, and family stabilization.

Baltimore Neighborhoods, Inc.  Despite what you may have read in the recent report issued regarding evictions in Baltimore, we do indeed have an organization that operates a landlord-tenant hotline that is free and available to anyone who needs assistance. BNI has been in constant operation for over 50 years, and continues to be a strong force in the fight for fair housing across Maryland. In addition to their landlord-tenant hotline, BNI conducts trainings and workshops for communities that need assistance and information on fair housing law.

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