BALTIMORE—Open Society Institute-Baltimore is investing $772,000 to support 23 organizations working with Marylanders who use drugs, are incarcerated, or were recently released from incarceration, and thus at increased risks of contracting COVID-19, suffering a fatal overdose, or being re-incarcerated. OSI chose grant recipients based on applications submitted in response to a request for proposals published in April.
“Our goal was to invest in organizations that are on the ground and providing critical support to individuals among those most at risk as a result of the pandemic and the related economic impact,” says Tara Huffman, director of OSI’s Criminal and Juvenile Justice Program, which jointly administered the grants with OSI’s Addiction and Health Equity Program. “These are organizations working tirelessly, very often with insufficient resources, to save lives. As the pandemic persists, we hope these funds will allow them to sustain and even scale up their efforts.”
Among the grants:
- $50,000 to Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition to provide direct relief to individuals who use drugs and have unstable housing in response to the challenges presented by COVID-19
- $55,000 to Sex Workers Outreach Project-Baltimore to run a peer-led, mobile outreach project providing services, support, and employment opportunities to street-based sex workers
- $50,000 to Youth Empowered Society to provide case management, emergency housing, and legal support to youth and young adults who are experiencing homelessness and using substances in response COVID-19
- $50,000 in general support to Baltimore Safe Haven to provide emergency services to at-risk transgender people in Baltimore.
- $30,000 to the Maryland Prisoner’s Rights Coalition to expand its capacity to advocate for improved conditions of confinement for people in Maryland prisons, especially in the era of COVID-19
“This grant from OSI will allow Voices of Hope to meet the increased demand for Narcan, harm reduction services and recovery support of individuals in Cecil and Harford Counties,” says Jennifer Tuerke, executive director of Voices of Hope, a Cecil County-based advocacy organization led by people in recovery that received $30,000 in general support. “The demand for services has increased over 100% since COVID. Without this funding, our outreach and services would have been significantly reduced. We are grateful for OSI and their expanded reach into more rural areas of Maryland, where overdose deaths are shockingly high.”
“With support from OSI-Baltimore we will be able to massively expand our mobile outreach efforts and provide low-barrier part-time employment to sex workers,” says Christa Daring of Sex Workers Outreach Project-Baltimore. “The threat of COVID has disproportionately impacted sex workers operating in the street economy and this grant allows us to provide services to the whole person.”
The full list of grantees for this investment is below.
Voices of Hope, Inc.
These grants are part of OSI-Baltimore’s broader efforts to respond to COVID-19, including the following:
- A $12 million public-private partnership to establish Baltimore Health Corps, which is hiring hundreds of unemployed Baltimore residents to be contact tracers and care coordinators for residents of Baltimore neighborhoods hardest hit by COVID-19.
- A $3 million public-private partnership to establish a MESH network to extend the internet connectivity of city schools to homes of students who are otherwise disconnected and allow them to participate in remote learning, and support hardware purchases for students in need.
- In development, public-private partnership to provide emergency assistance to 15,000 Baltimore City residents in need.
- A $250,000 investment from Open Society Foundations’ International Migration Initiative to support particularly marginalized workers in Baltimore City, including undocumented immigrants
- A $150,000 Investment and partnership with community organizations on a broad voter education and communications campaign to keep marginalized communities from being disenfranchised by the shift to vote by mail in the 2020 elections.
“These investments are a key component in OSI’s overall COVID response,” says OSI-Baltimore Director Danielle Torain. “Our goal from the beginning of the pandemic has been to work closely with people and organizations on the ground to identify ways to support those most impacted by the pandemic and corresponding economic downturn. These investments do exactly that.”