Dayspring Program Inc. in East Baltimore offers a transitional facility for homeless women as well as other programs and support services to strengthen self-sufficiency in an area where employment is low, drug use is abundant and fresh food is almost nonexistent.
The main goal of Dayspring, which began in 1987, is to assist women who have become homeless due to substance abuse. Once women complete the program, lasting from one year to 18 months, they then transition to independent living within their community along with their families. There are currently 65 homes throughout the community being used for independent living.
Sharon Clements, children’s program director at Dayspring, said the building was built about two years ago, and although drug traffic increased once established, the community has positively accepted Dayspring.
“It brings a ray of hope to the community,” Clements said. “This is a building where you and your family can go to get help.”
One of the most recent programs is the Dayspring Garden Project, which began over a year ago.
Karen Bovie, co-chair of poverty and homelessness committee for the First Unitarian Universalist Church said by partnering with other organizations within the church the garden was able to become a possibility.
“There’s a wonderful playground for children out here but the women didn’t have a place of their own,” Bovie said. “We wanted it to feed their body and feed their emotions. It’s a place where eventually we want to have a place that’s peaceful, a place that’s calm because most of them don’t have a place like that in their lives.”
The garden is an ongoing project that started as a rubble site that fostered drug activity, said Bovie.
Now families are able to have fresh food in an area of Baltimore that is classified as a food desert. Peppers, tomatoes, arugula, lettuce and beets are just some of the vegetables that are grown.
But planting the garden isn’t enough. The women of Dayspring are required to take parenting classes that include how to plant the vegetables, maintain the garden and how to cook and eat healthy.
The garden located directly behind the facility, takes group effort as everyone at Dayspring had to learn all that a garden requires, said Clements. Bovie and Clements both hope the positivity that the garden brings to the community will soon ripple throughout the rest of East Baltimore.
One of the most difficult aspects of creating and establishing programs in the community Bovie said is the lack of communication and disconnect between organizations and community members alike.
Clements said residents of Baltimore could benefit from big projects that bring everyone together to decrease the feeling of isolation.
“A big gardening project would be good,” Clements said. “Every area that has a garden, maybe use that like Arbor Day to have one big activity or something where people can feel comfortable, where you know what’s going on and how you can benefit.”
The garden at Dayspring not only offers fresh produce to a community where that isn’t always available, but also a peaceful place where the women can regain hope, said Bovie.
To know more about the programs offered at Dayspring, visit their website.