430 South Broadway
Pictures and History of the Esperanza Center
History of the Esperanza Center
In the early 1960s, a determined young community activist named Nancy Conrad returned to Baltimore from Latin America where she was serving with the Young Christian Workers. Soon after, she began working with the growing Spanish-speaking population in the city. Recognizing a need to help recent immigrants overcome language and cultural barriers, she sought assistance from Cardinal Lawrence Sheehan, who offered space in an unused classroom at St. Ann’s School on Greenmount Avenue and 22nd Street. The Spanish Apostolate officially opened on September 16, 1963, offering English classes and general assistance to any immigrant in need of services. With an army of volunteers, who helped with activities such as producing a Spanish newsletter, offering translation and interpretation services, planning social events, and finding needed resources, the Apostolate outgrew its space, and ultimately became a program of Catholic Charities of Baltimore in the early 1980’s. The original southeast Baltimore location was formally named the “Hispanic Apostolate.” The program occupied various locations over time, adding services as needed, including immigration legal services and a health clinic.
After relocating to the third floor of a senior center at 430 S. Broadway, the program continued to offer educational, community, health and immigration legal services to an ever-increasing immigrant population – and quickly found itself in need of more space. In 2008, in recognition of the 45th anniversary of the Hispanic Apostolate/Immigration Legal Services, Catholic Charities renovated and dedicated the entire building to this program. The organization was rededicated as the “Esperanza Center” and continues to serve thousands of new immigrants each year.
About the Esperanza Center today
The mission of the Esperanza Center is to provide essential resources and compassionate services to immigrants in the Baltimore region to promote citizenship, health, family unity and community integration. Our vision is to increase intercultural exchange in the community and improve professional services to immigrants with our partners in a spirit of hospitality and hope.
Esperanza Center offers services in four areas: health, education, immigration legal services, and community referral and resources. Through partnerships with health care providers such as Johns Hopkins Hospital, University of Maryland Dental School and St. Agnes Hospital, Esperanza Center Health Services (ECHS) Clinic serves patients during 3000 visits each year. The services vary from primary care appointments and walk-in visits to specialized clinics and appointments for immunizations, dental, ophthalmology, gynecology, neurology, mental health and more. ECHS is now a partner in the Volunteers in Medicine Alliance, which affords liability coverage to active and retired volunteer healthcare providers. ECHS partners with Nueva Vida, which offers weekly group and individual therapy sessions to Latinas with cancer.
Our Immigration Legal Services (ILS) program offers legal advice and representation from experienced immigration attorneys and a fully accredited BIA representative in a wide range of immigration matters, including assistance with visas, asylum, residency, citizenship, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and defense against removal. Since its inception in 1994, ILS has worked on over 14,500 cases for individuals from over 150 different countries. Through funding from the Maryland Legal Services Corporation, ILS is able to provide low-cost representation to Maryland's immigrants and their families. In partnerships with other service providers, and with grant funding from the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention, we offer pro-bono legal services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and other crimes. ILS is actively engaged in the community organizing outreach and clinics for potential DACA and naturalization applicants.
Our English as a Second Language (ESL) program provides informal and formal classes in English, computer literacy and citizenship to over 350 students each year. Our Client Services program handles over 2,000 client inquiries annually to help immigrants navigate their way through government agencies dealing with social services, housing, employment training, and offering assistance with adapting to US culture. Their work includes translations, notarizations, referrals, public health education, financial literacy workshops, cultural sensitivity guidance and employment search assistance.
In 2013, the Esperanza Center celebrates its 50th Anniversary of providing hope and services to the immigrant communities of Baltimore and throughout the region.