One year after a fire caused significant damage to the Esperanza Center on Broadway, thousands of immigrant neighbors continue to receive services at alternative sites.
In the months since flames engulfed Budeke’s Paint Store and an old church on either side of the Broadway location, about 6,000 individuals have received health care at the Esperanza Center Health Clinic, operating out of St. Patrick’s Assisi House on S. Bank St. in Fells Point. Adults and families have found help with school enrollment, forms, notary needs, benefit assistance, and other services at Assisi House, as well. Legal services and help for victims of human trafficking have continued at other locations.
Meanwhile, the pervasive smoke damage and odor has pushed back a reopening of the Broadway facility to spring 2020.
“Odor mitigation efforts are almost complete,” said Esperanza Center Director Val Twanmoh. “New HVAC units have been installed and the ductwork has been cleaned. We expect construction to begin this month.”
After several months of operating English language classes at Assisi House, the English program has now moved to the 3700 block of Eastern Ave. for at least this academic year. In fact, it has expanded to start English classes for families in addition to youth and adult individuals. The partnership with the Enoch Pratt Free Library’s Southeast Anchor Branch at Eastern Ave. and Conkling St. remains. The youth after-school programs continue at the Southeast Anchor and Brooklyn branches.
The locations are important, because the area has a high concentration of immigrant individuals and families without access to their own transportation. Most people who receive Esperanza Center services walk or take a bus. Staying local helps clients continue services despite significant needs, fears or limitations. That includes people like Rose Richardson, who has been treated for stage four uterine cancer and rheumatoid arthritis through the center and its partnerships with medical providers. She has a 4-year-old daughter and still gets support from the center.
“If I didn’t get the treatment, I would probably die,” she said.
Twanmoh remains deeply grateful for the partnerships with Sacred Heart, St. Patrick’s, the Enoch Pratt Free Library, and other services. Those partnerships will continue while the renovation and smoke remediation goes on at the Broadway location. Even with delays, the approach is much more affordable than finding a new facility.