Being a Baltimore City resident and an individual who’s always sought to give back to the communities I live in, I recently used some of my volunteer time off (VTO) to paint micro-shelters with Smalltimore Homes. This nonprofit describes itself as “an affordable housing and sustainable living solution designed to end homelessness. Smalltimore Homes focuses on enhancing community living and improving neighborhoods by creating alternative ownership opportunities through micro shelters and tiny dwellings.” Its founder, Quida Chancey, began her career fixing and flipping homes in the city in 2014 with a particular focus on promoting homeownership in the city’s black community.
Upon arriving at the Baltimore Community ToolBank, who opened up their warehouse for the day’s activities, Quida and her teammates shared a bit about the organization’s work and then got us to work. The day’s focus: decorating one of the recently built shelters’ exterior with Baltimore-themed designs. As you can see below, the house is big enough for one individual to get out of the elements and lay down. The home’s interior features an insulated roof, floor tiles, and two small windows; this provides a safer alternative compared to sleeping outdoors.
The day’s activities began in earnest after this introduction, with volunteers forming groups and deciding on their designs for each side. My team busted out their cellphones for inspiration, quickly selecting the iconic bus stop benches found throughout Baltimore. For readers not familiar with them, check out the picture below that inspired our work.
Over the next few hours, my two team members and I took turns on the project and spent the downtime warming up. Painting in 30-degree weather was a unique experience as the paint seemed to dry faster than usual and required multiple coats. Thankfully, knowing that our efforts would offer a fellow Baltimore resident shelter and potentially be launching pad for other positive changes, we pressed on until we finished the image.