Information About Our Daily Bread Employment Center Services
For over 35 years, the Our Daily Bread Employment Center has helped people in need with a daily hot meal, case management, job training and employment counseling.
Baltimore’s poverty rate has increased 20%, reaching a staggering 25.6% (U.S. Census Bureau). With one in four Baltimoreans living in poverty, the demand for services at Our Daily Bread Employment Center (ODBEC) has risen sharply. ODBEC is a safety net that helps to keep the thousands of people served each year from hunger, homelessness and unemployment. It is the place people people turn to for help and hope.
The History of Our Daily Bread
A few months later Greg Conderacci joins Catholic Charities and asks Msgr. Love what the new program should be called. “Our Daily Bread,” Msgr. Love replies. The rest is history.
“The most important thing I did was hire Sister Josanna Abromaitis, SSND, to be the first director of ODB” Greg says. “She supervised the construction, designed the policies and procedures (some of which are still in effect) and, most importantly, recruited thousands of volunteers. She’s a bona fide saint in my book – ODB is her first miracle!”
Prior to joining Catholic Charities, Greg had volunteered for Fr. John Adams in Washington, D.C. Father Adams’ So Others May Eat (SOME) provided the prototype for the ODB model in which parishes and other organizations supply casseroles and volunteer servers. Greg noted that, like the Our Daily Bread Employment Center (ODBEC), the SOME program is still in operation and has greatly expanded over the years due to the increased need for services.
“When we started ODB in a little storefront on Franklin Street, we never dreamed it would become as big and comprehensive a program as it is today,” Greg said. Initially, ODB provided “a good, hot, wholesome lunch, prepared in advance and served by volunteers. It wasn’t long before Sr. Josanna added a breakfast, too. And, a few years later, she started the original Christopher Place program for men which ultimately became the ‘employment’ part of ODBEC.”
Greg remembered that “we were blown away on the first day when 100 people showed up at our door for lunch. The crowd soon grew to hundreds, and there’s never been any real lessening of demand. So, I guess I’m sorry it’s still needed but glad it’s still around.”
Greg credited the development of Catholic Charities’ expertise in feeding, housing and homelessness to “Hal Smith, who had the vision to reach out meaningfully to the most needy, and to Sr. Josanna, who had the compassion and creativity to build a program so caring and durable, as well as the dedicated volunteers who have been the program’s lifeblood.”
Angelo Boer became program director of ODB and Christopher Place when Sr. Josanna left. When he took over the program, the people involved all felt that ODB was a short-term response to a hunger issue and that the program would not be needed for long.
“It’s incredible how the issues have become much larger today, though food is still part of the problem. Even while I was still there [at ODBEC],” Angelo remembered, “I became aware of the working poor’s inability to afford healthy food. I saw people coming in wearing hard hats, so I knew they were working and on their lunch breaks, trying to find ways to stretch their paychecks. We never saw that in the early days. Homelessness has become a more important part of the big picture, too.”
At ODB, volunteers serve the meals to guests. “We have always provided more than a meal; we serve people with dignity, and that is equally as important as the food we provide. We never served cafeteria style. Sr. Josanna insisted that our guests be treated with respect,” Angelo said.
As unemployment and homelessness became more prevalent among ODB guests, the Christopher Place program evolved. Christopher Place started as an emergency shelter; it had 32 beds for overnight stays but received as many as 150 men per day. It was the only day shelter where homeless people could come and get a shower and do laundry. Health Care for the Homeless started there, so the men could receive health care. By the early 1990s, other shelters provided similar day services, so Christopher Place developed the Employment Academy, added employment counselors and a full-time residential program.
Angelo hired Sr. Gwynette Proctor as the first director of Christopher Place Employment Academy (CPEA). She had been a school principal before she came to CPEA, so she structured the Academy after a school curriculum. Her first curriculum was focused on supporting employment, and she described the first employment academy as an “educational program with a residential component that supported addiction recovery for formerly homeless men.”
To plan the curriculum, she recalled, “I visited transitional housing programs, but they didn’t deal with work or recovery. The employment centers I visited didn’t deal with housing or recovery. I realized that to have a truly effective program, we needed to include all three elements so each man could be successful.”
Most of the men who enrolled had been homeless for years and were not used to living on any sort of schedule. Sr. Gwynette made sure they dressed in clean, neat clothes and arrived at work on time. The classroom work portion of the program lasted three months and included instruction on anger management skills, workplace behavior and financial literacy. It also had an addictions counselor on staff. After three months, the men started employment. They had to save 80% of what they earned so they could save $3,000 or more by the time they graduated.
Sr. Gwynette recalled, “After the first class completed their classroom skills portion of the program, we held a job fair for employers. It took some time to convince employers to participate, but by the time I left seven years later – and saw 14 classes of men graduate – we had 20-25 employers who were regular participants. Employers were willing to take a chance and partner with us. They were anxious to find reliable employees, and I knew we could provide them.”
“The CPEA men brought me their paychecks for deposit, and when their savings exceeded $1000, then $2000, etc., they were astonished, then overjoyed. In this structured and supportive environment, they flourished despite anything they had done in the past. For me, seeing this was particularly joyful.”
“People came for all kinds of reasons. We were always looking forward, not backward. We saw so many transformations; it was unbelievable. Those years there were such a blessing to me,” Sr. Gwynette said.
ODB and CPEA eventually outgrew the building on Franklin Street, and that building is now home to Catholic Charities’ My Sister’s Place Women’s Center, a day shelter women and children. Today, ODB and CPEA are housed in the Our Daily Bread Employment Center at 725 Fallsway and offer employment services, the Work for Success program, casework services and training programs in West Baltimore.
The hot meal program at ODB has grown so much that it requires 40 volunteers and at least 130 casseroles a day to meet demands. CPEA is now an intensive 18-month residential program. Catholic Charities has begun operating a day shelter for men and women at the Weinberg Housing and Resource Center across the street from ODBEC. While the demand for services to access affordable housing, jobs and food has increased over the past 35 years, Catholic Charities will continue to provide services to alleviate poverty, hunger and homelessness and help Marylanders in need.
The Daily Bread Employment Center is a lifeline for those in need. We:
- Serve meals to Maryland’s hungry. Click here to learn about the Our Daily Bread’s Food Service Program.
- Assist homeless men to make the transition to employment, stable housing and self-sufficiency through the Christopher Place Employment Academy
- Train people for job readiness
- Offer job placement assistance
We serve men and women in need in Baltimore City, Maryland. To learn the specific details about who is eligible for service at any particular program, please click here or join us at the Center for the daily meal, served every day (beginning at 10:30 am), without a single interruption, since 1981.
Our Daily Bread is Maryland’s hot meal program, serving more than a quarter of a million meals to the hungry of Baltimore City each year. We serve nutritious lunches every day of the year and breakfast to seniors and individuals with disabilities each weekday.
Since June 1, 1981, we have never missed a day serving the hungry in Baltimore, in spite of blizzards, hurricanes or any other occurrence. LEARN MORE>>
In the midst of a tough economy, Our Daily Bread Employment Center has placed people in more than 1,000 jobs over the past three years with an average starting wage of $11 per hour and has helped thousands more gain the skills necessary to continue their job search. At Our Daily Bread Employment Center, we offer services for employers (companies who want to hire people) and for employees (people looking for work). Contact Employment Services at 667-600-3411.
Employees: Find Work
- Match the skills of our clients with the needs of employers
- Establish and maintain relationships with employers
- Educate employers in matters relating to employing ODBEC clients
- Advocate for the employment of our clients
Employers: Find Workers
- Promote the discovery of job openings that match the skills of our clients
- Establish and maintain relationships with employers
- Participate in community organizations & business associations
- Find ways to provide training for skills most needed in the workforce
We need your help in the identification, recommendation or direct referral of employers who can support the hiring of our participants. If you are an employer and you have an immediate hiring need or plan to hire, please contact us at 667-600-3411. We maintain a pool of screened, trained, job ready clients.
Christopher Place Employment Academy is an intensive residential employment program that provides education and training, as well as recovery support to formerly homeless men of the Baltimore area and is located at the Our Daily Bread Employment Center. LEARN MORE>>
Housed at St. Edward’s Church in Baltimore, our goal is to assist program participants with job readiness skills, wrap-around services to address barriers and job placement assistance, especially in the general services/automotive technician fields. LEARN MORE>>
Hungry For Change
On October 26, 2016, Catholic Charities hosted a forum on poverty and the need for a response grounded in social justice. The forum was part of the commemoration of the 35th anniversary of Our Daily Bread Employment Center. The Keynote Speakers were Dr. Kathryn Edin, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Johns Hopkins University, and Sr. Patricia Chappell, SNDdeN, a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and the executive director of Pax Christi USA.