Categories: Roberta's House
This past Monday EHC Executive Director, Dan McCarthy, accompanied Annette March-Grier, Executive Director of Roberta’s House, and Paulina Beeche and Laura Penza of Penza-Baliey Architects to Highmark Caring Place in Harrisburg on a tour and fact finding mission. The reason for this trip was to see their facility and, more importantly, how they provide services to their clients. Their clients are very special. Highmark Caring Place is center for grieving children and their families who have experienced the loss of a parent or loved one.
Our client, Roberta’s House, has been providing similar services in Baltimore since 2007 albeit from leased space. Roberta’s house is an outgrowth of the March Funeral Homes, one of the largest African American family owned funeral home companies in the United States with operations in Baltimore City, Washington DC and Richmond, Va. Roberta’s House is named after Julia Roberta March, the co-founder and matriarch of March Funeral Homes.
Julia Roberta March
Last year, Annette March-Grier contracted with EHC to begin work on building a new facility designed for and dedicated solely to creating a caring, open environment for those who have recently experienced the death of a family member or close friend and particularly those who have been impacted by Baltimore’s high homicide rate. The new facility will be located on East North Avenue on land that was the original location of the first March Funeral Home.
Site of the Fist March Funeral Home
Much of what both Roberta’s House and Highmark Caring Place do is to provide space where people who are grieving can come together to share their feelings about loss and discover that they are not alone in their experience. Trained volunteers and staff act as facilitators encouraging participants to share their emotions with the eventual goal of having individuals realize that their feelings, though unique to them, are nonetheless normal. One of the most effective aspects of both programs is dividing the families up into peer support groups. Young children, adolescents and adults all process loss differently and grouping participants by age allows them to more readily see how their peers are reacting under similar circumstances and creates a more comfortable environment for them to express their own emotions.
Roberta’s House offers several programs that are unique by necessity. As Baltimore City continues to rank near the top of US metropolitan areas for homicides per capita and given that March Funeral Home originated in an area of the city severely impacted by homicide, Roberta’s House offers programming specifically targeted towards surviving family members and others victimized by homicide. The Survivor Advocacy Program provides support and assistance to families immediately following a homicide helping to navigate the often traumatic steps of identifying the victim, retrieving personal possessions and notifying others. Associates can also assess survivors and provide early crisis intervention connecting survivors with various resources as needed. The Rays of Hope Program is a 10 week program that brings surviving family members together to explore new roles and ways of coping with a goal of strengthening the family unit. Changing the Game is a peer support group for at risk teens that have experienced often multiple losses and may either have a history of offenses with the court or are extreme risk becoming offenders. The Homicide Transformation Project will provide bereavement support for African American adults from low income communities. All of these programs have the ultimate goal of breaking the cycle of violence that is often evidenced in individuals that suffer from unresolved grief.
The creation of a facility designed specifically for Roberta’s House programming will allow it to serve a greater swath of the target population and to run those programs concurrently as needed. Additionally, there will be community spaces available that will serve to strengthen the community as a whole and hopefully further reduce the violence that results from lack of opportunity and privilege. Episcopal Housing Corporation is proud to be working with Roberta’s House and the March family to make a better place for all.
BTW There is a great radio segment from This American Life about a similar program in Salt Lake City. Give it a listen.