Robert Charles Badders, who headed the Home Maintenance Program of Light Street Housing Corp., died Oct. 4 of undetermined causes at his East Baltimore home. He was 44.
Mr. Badders, who was a recovering substance abuser, counseled recovering addicts at the South Baltimore Homeless Shelter.
With his shoulder-length blond hair and about 30 tattoos, he had been a familiar figure in Southwest Baltimore, Washington Village and Pigtown since the early 1990s, making repairs on homes inhabited by the disabled and elderly on fixed incomes.
"He was a very unusual person who was articulate, handy and really cared about what he was doing," said M. Gregory Cantori, executive director of the Marion I. and Henry J. Knott Foundation and former head of Light Street Housing Corp., a nonprofit agency that provides housing and services for the homeless.
Mr. Cantori remembered the day when Mr. Badders arrived at Light Street Housing Corp. from the South Baltimore Homeless Shelter, carrying his possessions in a bag slung over his shoulder, and asking for a chance to go to work.
In recent years, he started a Light Street program under which recovering addicts cleaned and boarded up abandoned houses.
"He used to tell them, 'This is the only job you'll ever have that you have to be homeless and a drug addict to qualify for,' " recalled Mr. Cantori.
"He'd tell them, 'I was homeless once. I was an addict. I did it and you can do it.' He knew all the tricks and told them not to try them. It was a wonderful example of tough love," said Mr. Cantori.
"He really had a way of bringing people into the fold. He was certainly an inspiration," he said.
Mr. Badders was born and raised in Northwood and was a graduate of Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School. He served as an Army combat engineer during the Vietnam War and was a civilian seaman working on tankers serving Navy vessels in the Persian Gulf War.
He was 15 when he became an alcoholic, said his mother, Beatrice Badders of Northwood.
"Bob had been sober for the last eight years, and he died sober," she said.
Mr. Badders attended Lovely Lane United Methodist Church, where services were held Friday.
In addition to his mother, he is survived by his father, Walter Badders of Northwood; a brother, Raymond Badders of Riverdale; a sister, Ginny Potter of Columbus, Ga.; a nephew; and six nieces.