By Patrick Slavin, UHI Communications Associate
At the Social Determinants of Health Symposium, the difference makers from Baltimore’s civil society were represented in force, including innovative homeless activist LaQuida Chancey, a Bunting Neighborhood Leadership Fellow.
“I want to be a catalyst of change,” Chancey said during an interview at her East Baltimore home. “I want Smalltimore Homes to be a stepping stone where the people we work with are thriving.”
The founder and executive director of Smalltimore Homes, Chancey started the community-based organization in 2018 as a “side hustle” that became her full-time calling after her sister needed care with a medical issue and she left her career in computer science. Chancy, 40, holds degrees from Spellman College and Morgan State University.
Chancey was so moved by the plight of the homeless she came up with the idea of building mobile micro-shelters, small wood homes, around 70 square feet, that allow occupants to keep their possessions in a secure place. The homes can endure harsh weather conditions and the wheels allow for easy transport around the city. They’re also big enough to sleep in. Later she designed a roomier shelter, at 264 square feet, that’s also mobile and on wheels.
“Unfortunately, the City of Baltimore requires a home to be a minimum of 400 feet, so believe it or not the city currently considers our shelters to be motor vehicles,” Chancey said noting that part of her mission is to advocate and lobby elected officials for the human rights of the homeless.
“The most common request I get from a homeless person is for toilet paper, socks, and money. During COVID, peoples’ attitudes towards the homeless changed. Now it’s maybe not in my backyard, but across the street could work. People are more tolerant and understand how quickly you can become homeless and find yourself living in your car,” she said. “Working with the Bunting Neighborhood Leadership Fellows, I want to provide wrap-around services such as IDs, cellphones, and a skillset.”
Symposium participants can follow Chancey on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/SmalltimoreHomes/
Established in 2016, the Bunting Neighborhood Leadership Program is a one-of-a-kind initiative that aims to equip the next generation of Baltimore’s community activists with the knowledge, skills, and tools to be transformative leaders.? This year long fellowship from the Johns Hopkins Urban Health Institute: