Carmoletha Lomax is 79 and has lived at Weinberg Place, a senior housing complex in Northwest Baltimore, for about a year.
“So far, I love it here,” she said. She plays cards and Bingo almost every day. “My husband was sick when we came in here and we didn’t have any place to go.” Her husband of 56 years died about four months ago, but her friends, like Malon Smith, made sure she got out to socialize.
Smith, 64, was homeless before she came to Weinberg Place in February. She credits Healthcare for the Homeless with saving her life, and her friend Patricia Ball, Weinberg Place tenant association president, with helping her get an apartment there.
“I am blessed and highly favored. I wouldn’t give it up, no way,” Smith said. “We dance and play cards. We do art class, I do exercises and I love to make people laugh.”
On Sept. 15, Lomax, Smith and Ball were joined by more than 100 others at Weinberg Place to celebrate the building’s 50 years and recognize its historic place in pioneering affordable housing for the aged in Baltimore.
A standing-room-only crowd of residents, federal, state, city and county officials, and representatives from the organizations that founded and still support Weinberg House filled the building’s large meeting room. On tables lining the walls were posters with hundreds of photos of the building’s history and its residents. About 260 seniors live at Weinberg Place.
Built in 1967, originally known as Concord Apartments, it was one of the first affordable senior housing complexes built with assistance from the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Section 202 capital building grant — the ninth in the country. That grant program no longer exists, although the demand for affordable senior housing is growing.
Officials from CHAI (Comprehensive Housing Assistance Inc.), which owns Weinberg Place and 10 other Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Senior Living properties in Northwest Baltimore and Baltimore County, and Edgewood Management, which operates the properties, were there to celebrate the facility’s half-century mark. CHAI is an agency of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.
Mitch Posner, CHAI’s executive director, kicked off the event with a reading of Psalm 92 recognizing the approach of Shabbat, which he said best expressed why people “do what we do for older adults.”
“A righteous person will flourish like a date palm. Like a cedar in Lebanon, they will grow tall. Planted in the house of the Lord, in the courtyard of our God they will flourish,” he read. “They will still be fruitful in their old age, vigorous and fresh they will be.”
He said, “Weinberg Place is the epitome of a courtyard where we help older adults flourish in their old age and remain vigorous and fresh.” He continued with a bit of history: “In 1967, The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, Levindale and the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development came together to plant the seed of what we know now as Weinberg Place.”
Linda A. Hurwitz, chair of the board at The Associated, quoted Maya Angelou: “People forget what you say. People forget what you do, but people will never forget how you make them feel.” She said, “This building represents our first venture in providing affordable housing for our seniors and [making] them feel good.”
Posner said that Concord Apartments borrowed $2,980 to finance the construction of the senior housing project in accordance with Housing Act of 1959. The building is now worth more than $23 million.
“We’re proud to say that we believe Weinberg Place was the first HUD 202 building in the City of Baltimore,” he said. “But for the dollars of the budget of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, there would be no Weinberg Place.”
The building had a major renovation in 2002, funded mostly through the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation.
Shirley Crowder lived in a nursing home for four years and lost limbs to illness before coming to Weinberg Place. “I’m here to stay,” she said. “This community is great. People look out for one another. The services that are provided in this building are unparalleled.”
Darcell Gholson who has been the manager of Weinberg Place since 2004, said the waiting list for people under 62 with a disability is three to six years long. “And there is a waiting list for the one-bedrooms for seniors six months to a year long,” she added.
After the event, Posner mourned the loss of the federal Section 202 capital building funds, calling the need for senior housing “insatiable.”
“We have 17 buildings and each one has a waiting list. If we built 17 more tomorrow, they’d be full,” he said. “The challenge is the funding. The HUD 202 capital grant no longer exists. If we can’t build new, we have to help people age in the community in the house that they own or rent themselves.”