For Bria Evans, it just takes a little spark to start something big. In casual conversations with her neighbors, she kept hearing about how difficult it was for unsheltered neighbors to access food. So, in 2017, she started making meals for them. She called the program Haven for the Homeless, which was officially designated as a 510(c)3 nonprofit organization in 2020. When she started, Evans was making about 40 plates every Sunday. Now she and her team of volunteers make over 250 plates of food each Sunday. Then, they deliver the meals to 10 different homeless encampments across the city.
“I’m really passionate about helping people,” Evans said. “No matter what the situation, if I can help, I’m willing to help.”
Showing up for unsheltered Baltimoreans each week, Evans has been able to establish relationships with people and learn more about what they need. People in the encampments talked about the lack of access to showers and clean clothes. Evans held a coat drive. After that, she began collecting, cleaning, and sorting donated clothes to hand out to people with their meals. She keeps a catalog of the inventory in her mind, so if someone needs a coat, size Large, she can grab it for them.
Over time, she added in regular theme events to go along with the meal distribution service—the now annual Fall for Love Coat Drive; days where they give out free haircuts and hairdos; toiletry stocking stuffers that get handed out in December; and more.
As an OSI-Baltimore Community Fellow, Evans will launch Fresh Start Mobile Services, a mobile shower service. Currently, there is only one such shower service in Baltimore, which operates for just a few months a year.
“There was one young woman that I talked to,” Evans said. “She felt like she couldn’t get the services she needs, couldn’t go to job interviews because she didn’t smell good. She had a lot of depression and anxiety because the world doesn’t see her as a person who just needs some support. I hope my program will help people get back on their feet, give them that boost of confidence so they can get the help they need.”
Fresh Start Mobile Services will provide showers and a hot meal to people without homes. Evans has already received a donation of three vehicles from the Maryland Transportation Authority. With the funding from the OSI Community Fellowship, she can begin converting the retired mobility vehicles into two mobile shower units and one meal distribution unit. Her plan is to for the mobile shower units to visit two encampments each weekend, providing up to 240 showers each month.
And Evans hopes the program will keep growing from there. “With these resources, I know I will be able to reach more people in a more meaningful way,” she said.