By Cori Lucas,
Protecting and educating the city’s youth is imperative to securing a bright future for all Black residents of Baltimore. However, an ever-expanding number of Black youth in Baltimore City are homeless or living in abusive households. J.O.Y. (Just Our Youth) Baltimore is present in the neighborhood, directly offering displaced young people, ages 13-24, safety and nourishment upon request! Homeless and runaway youth of all circumstances can come to J.O.Y. Baltimore’s Drop-In Center where they will be greeted with a place to sleep, food, first aid, mental health services and crisis intervention. J.O.Y. also takes pride in walking right beside their youth on their path toward stability, even after they leave the facility! They provide help securing permanent housing, getting into schools and training programs, and obtaining medical care, dental services, and a Maryland State ID. Since it’s conception in 2016, J.O.Y. Baltimore has helped hundreds of teens and young adults (especially LGBTQ+) obtain independence and security.
Raised in the Red Hook Projects of Brooklyn, New York, CEO and Founder Lonnie Walker has teetered on the edge of homelessness himself. Lonnie moved to Baltimore in 2002 where he was met with a glaring issue: the sheer number of LGBTQ+ youth that were living on the streets. A certified foster parent, manager of group homes across Baltimore, and career-long youth advocate, he couldn’t let these devastating circumstances continue. Hence, with no funding and the last of his own resources, he created J.O.Y. Baltimore with the mission of ending youth homelessness. From this personal experience and his 30+ years caring for and mentoring young people, he adopted the principle of “meet[ing] them where they are and deal[ing] with the immediate need” and created J.O.Y. Baltimore for that purpose.
Given the funding to maximize their work, J.O.Y. Baltimore would “begin to knock down some of the barriers that hold our young people down, whether it be new clothing, food, transportation and support for families in need.” While distributing more resources, J.O.Y. would prioritize securing their own building where they’ll be able to better care for more youth, but also to serve as a place where they can come and just feel safe. “An Ideal budget would [also] allow us to show what work grassroots organizations are really doing to make the change that the city needs.”
In addition to their care center, J.O.Y. Baltimore is the home of Black Men United (BMU) and Black Women United (BWU). These are fraternal and sororal, respectively, mentoring programs that connect Baltimore’s younger generation with mentors who have endured similar struggles and can guide them over these hurdles as well as hold them accountable. J.O.Y. also runs The Boutique, a bi-monthly thrift shop that offers clothes as well as toiletries and food to people in need for free. To support the wellbeing of Baltimore’s next generation or take advantage of their services, visit cllctivly.org/listing/joy-baltimore or follow them @joybaltimore.
All February, we’re honoring a few of the many Black leaders in our community making history every day with #28DaysofBlackFutures.
This is a crowdfunding and narrative power campaign that amplifies and mobilizes resources for Black-led organizations serving Greater Baltimore.
Throughout the month, we will highlight 28 dedicated Black leaders and organizations on the ground creating programs and initiatives that drive health, wealth, safety, and culture in #Baltimore.
Let’s CELEBRATE these changemakers and SUPPORT their work! Our goal is to raise $100,000 by the end of this campaign.
Head over to 28DaysofBlackfutures.org to donate today! ❤️🖤💚
Let’s show up BIG for our Black leaders and their organizations!