Formerly homeless women and children move into new apartments inside a converted Baltimore Catholic school

Women and their children will move this month into a long-shuttered North Baltimore Catholic school that was converted into permanent, supportive housing as part of a $6 million renovation.

The nonprofit Marian House is opening the old Blessed Sacrament School as the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Building at Independence Place for 22 previously homeless families. The subsidized housing in the 4100 block of Old York Road comes with case management services and community meeting spaces.

Trenishia Rawls, 24, is awaiting a set of keys to move into her new home with her two sons, ages 8 months and 2 years. They’ve been staying at a city shelter, and Rawls said she is excited for her sons grow up in a home where they can have their own bedroom. In the new apartment, she, too, will get her own bedroom for the first time in her life.

“I am blessed,” she said. “It will mean I won’t be homeless again. It’s been a real struggle. I am a single mother, and I do everything I need on my own.”

A grand opening was held Wednesday.

Marian House, founded 35 years ago, purchased the 25,000-square-foot schoolhouse and a former rectory and convent last December. The school closed in the early 1970s.

Independence Place is Marian House’s second project that converted an old Catholic school into housing. The first, which opened in 2007, is the 19-unit Serenity Place on Gorsuch Avenue in Waverly, across the street from its headquarters.

The nonprofit plans to eventually also renovate the old Blessed Sacrament parish rectory and convent to provide transitional housing and supportive services to women and children. The families in the old schoolhouse received Section 8 vouchers to subsidize their rent. One unit will go to a site manager, who is a former Marian House client.

Funding came from the state, the Weinberg foundation, the France-Merrick Foundation and others sources, including loans. The nonprofit paid the Archdiocese of Baltimore $808,000 for the school, rectory and convent.

Katie Allston, Marian House director, said the goal is to provide supportive communities that transform lives. The new housing makes a small contribution toward filling the need, she said.

“Marian House is committed to helping women and families rise out of poverty and giving them a safe and loving environment in which they can overcome barriers and live productive lives,” Allston said.

Last year, Marian House served nearly 300 people, about half of whom were children. Besides housing, the nonprofit provides employment assistance, life-skills training, counseling, family reunification and financial guidance.

ywenger@baltsun.com

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