In the late spring of 2015, shortly after the unrest following the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, Episcopal Housing was approached by Roberta’s House Inc., a community based bereavement and grief counseling center associated with the March Funeral Homes organization. Annette March-Grier, executive director of Roberta’s House wanted EHC to explore the feasibility of constructing a facility that could serve as a beacon of hope and place of recovery for the children and families of victims of Baltimore’s extraordinarily high crime rate. The children and families of both victims and perpetrators often become secondary victims themselves through the loss of loved ones via homicide and incarceration. The resulting emotional damage, if left unresolved, often leads to poor outcomes and continues the cycles of violence and incarceration into the next generation.
This ambitious project will be located in the 900 block of East North Avenue across from Greenmount Cemetery. Roberta’s House Inc., chose this location because it is the site of the very first March Funeral Home. Since its founding in a now demolished rowhouse in that block in 1957, the March Funeral Home organization has grown to be one of the largest African-American owned funeral home businesses in the US with locations in Maryland, Virginia, Washington DC and Pennsylvania. In fact, the name, Roberta’s House, honors the memory of Julia Roberta March, who, with her husband William C. March co-founded the March Funeral Home organization.
Since its inception, March Funeral Homes have provided compassionate, dignified, affordable services to low income families but they have always been more than just a funeral home. Being a vital part of the community and offering extensive support for grieving families has been a standard of the March Funeral Homes and Roberta’s House is a natural outgrowth of the work the March family has been doing for over 50 years. This new community center will be approximately 18,000 square feet and will offer a wide range of programming for children aged 5-17 and their families. Programming will include interventions that encourage emotional expression and promote healthy emotional healing. The three story complex will provide a variety of spaces for therapy, reflection, meeting and diversion. It will also include a ninety seat theater and a roof garden. With a full-time staff of ten and and an active volunteer base of over one hundred, the center will be well placed to provide grief counseling and other services to the community. Fundraising is currently underway is expected to carry through until the end of 2018. We hope to begin building shortly thereafter and be serving the community by sometime in 2020.
Owner | Roberta’s House Inc.
Architect | Penza + Bailey Architects