Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh

Mayor Shares Vision at “In Their Own Words” Presentation

Date: March 29, 2017

It was a morning to remember: More than 300 United Way Tocqueville Society and Leaders United members and guests gathered at the Baltimore Hyatt Regency Hotel to enjoy a spirited address by Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh on March 9. It was the largest audience ever assembled for a United Way “In Their Own Words” Breakfast Series presentation.

Mayor Pugh shared her vision for the city and referenced some of the challenges it faces. She also talked about the good things happening in our city, such as the mobile vision exam and eyeglass distribution units, which on the day before had provided its 1,000th pair of glasses. “Can you imagine a young person living in poverty, whose mom or dad may not be there, or is addicted to drugs, and they are labeled ‘difficult to teach’ in school because they can’t see the board or the words in a book clearly? We have a responsibility to ensure our young people are the best that they can be,” she said, noting that kids need eyeglasses and meals, along with the services and resources that United Way provides.

Funded by a federal grant, the mobile vision units inspired the Mayor to brainstorm a similar, mobile approach to help others in the city. “There are people who are waiting for help, and people who want to be part of the solution. We have 76,000 unemployed [people] in this city. How do I get these people working?” she asked. She recounted a very early morning idea she had for mobile units that provide job opportunities and training as well as mental health services and addiction support. So far, one mobile unit has been funded by the state, and there is a commitment for another three vehicles.  Her goal: Seven units that hire 70 people each day. “Even if I get to 25 percent of that goal, it would make a difference. But we need to tackle problems like these together,” she said. “And that’s why the work United Way does is so important.”

The mayor also talked about the high number of people experiencing homelessness in Baltimore: 3,000 without homes and 500 sleeping on the streets every night. “This is a problem for you as a business person, for the community and for those on the street. We have to do better.”

“How do you lift a person to another lifestyle? We’re providing shelters, but would you want to share a room and shower with 100 other people? No. You want to feel safe, whether you’re mentally ill, drug addicted or homeless because you just couldn’t keep that mortgage up. We all want to go to ‘our place,’ to be able to shut the door and relax and think about the next day.” She envisioned for the audience a shelter facility offering more privacy for residents, and important supports such as a cafeteria serving three meals a day, onsite childcare, job education and training and mental health and addiction services. “There are people who understand this—we just need someone to lead and provide the vision to solve these problems.”

Mayor Pugh asked attendees to work together and inspire others to effect positive change in our city, which, she said, demands collaboration. “You’re the leaders who will help bring others along.  That’s why this is a partnership.  And that’s why you are all so important.  Don’t give because you can. Give because you have to.  Because if we’re going to change the trajectory of our city, if we’re going to change lives…it will be because of you.”

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