The Star Democrat

Baltimore’s GEDCO the last option for those facing eviction

- BY BILLY JEAN LOUIS

BALTIMORE, Md. (AP) — As the coronaviru­s pandemic rages on, more people are facing eviction. Baltimore’s Govans Ecumenical Developmen­t Corp., which places those in need in affordable housing, is one of the organizati­ons in Maryland trying to help.

Known as GEDCO, the nonprofit launched in 1991 and says that the racial makeup of its participan­ts reflects the city’s majority Black population. GEDCO has more than 500 mostly incomebase­d housing units in the Govans, Ednor Gardens-Lakeside

and Oliver neighborho­ods in East Baltimore.

The organizati­on also provides food, funding for people facing eviction and utility assistance, among other things.

Through a combinatio­n of grants, donations and city government funding, the organizati­on expanded its free food delivery services to West Baltimore and further in East Baltimore, said Nichole Battle, who has led GEDCO since 2013. The nonprofit, which normally provides $200 per family in rental assistance twice a year, now provides up to $500 due to the pandemic.

GEDCO provided rental assistance to 160 people from Jan. 1 to Dec. 12, 2020, and 244 people from Jan. 1 to Dec. 10 this year, the company wrote in an email earlier this month.

In August, The Baltimore Sun reported that nearly 26,000 Baltimore City households were behind on rent and faced uncertaint­y after the U.S.

Supreme Court blocked President Joe Biden’s plan to extend an eviction moratorium.

“It’s a lot of need; and over the pandemic, it was just even more,” Battle said.

Darlene Johnson, 68, of East Baltimore, said she’s thankful for GEDCO for helping because she doesn’t know where else she would have found help. Her only income is a $900 a month disability check. She said it’s not enough to cover bills, including $600 for rent and more than $150 for utilities.

“I just pray that GEDCO continues to get the support they need to help the community,” Johnson said.

Priscilla Richardson, of East Baltimore, was laid off from her housekeepi­ng job in August. But she quickly found a security job in October with the help of GEDCO, through one of their programs, CARES, or Civic and Religious Emergency Services, she said.

Battle, 52, lives in Mount

Vernon with her daughter Kayla, 17, a senior at Baltimore Polytechni­c Institute, and Cocoa, a mixed Labrador and Terrier rescue who’s about 5.

Growing up in Washington, D.C., she said she witnessed the poor conditions that some people experience in her predominan­tly Black neighborho­od.

“You could go through different parts of D.C. and say, ‘That’s where poor Black people live.’ And it just didn’t make sense to me. Why is it that you can look at a building and community and know what color that person is and what their income is,” she said. “I went through school really to figure out how I could impact public policy, so that you don’t have (the same conditions).”

Battle earned a bachelor’s degree in landscape architectu­re from Pennsylvan­ia State University in 1991. Five years later, she earned a master’s in public policy at the Ohio State University. In 2008, she earned a master’s in business administra­tion from Loyola University Maryland.

Before replacing Mitchell Posner as GEDCO’s CEO in 2013, she worked as director of real estate for the nonprofit from 2006 to 2007 and then at Philadelph­ia-based affordable housing developer Pennrose Properties from 2008 to 2013.

She takes pride in developing affordable houses that obscure a person’s income or race, she said.

At GEDCO, her duties include fundraisin­g, real estate developmen­t and human resources. But, as a Black woman leading a nonprofit, there are challenges.

Battle said she is conscious of the fact that there aren’t many Black women in similar positions.

“Being in this position and being a Black woman, you gotta be extra sensitive on how you’re seeing,” she said. “I always feel like I have to be more careful than most … because I just don’t want to disappoint.”

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