Once Homeless, 50 People Celebrate Hard-Won New Lives

by Lisa McChristian

       Willete Emerson, with strong eyes and confident voice, tells the story of a woman who had done time, done drugs and lost everything, including her son.
       Out of jail and tired of having to resume her old lifestyle to maintain a place to stay, the woman made a last attempt to change her life. She called Project P.L.A.S.E. (People Lacking Ample Shelter and Employment). Within hours, P.L.A.S.E. had a bed ready, and the woman was on her way to a new life.
        Willete is grateful for that phone call because she was the woman with nowhere to go. Now she is holding down a steady job, maintaining permanent housing, pursuing her G.E.D, and obtaining custody of her son.
        “I thought I was going to die a drug I have five years clean,” said Willete. She said she needed a foundation that not only offered a clean physical environment, but also helped with emotional and psychological needs.
        “You can’t take a homeless person off the street and give them food and shelter, but not the tools to live a new way of life,” Willete said.
       Willete, who now sits on an Advisory Board for Project P.L.A.S.E. clients, underwent P.L.A.S.E. programs that taught employability skills, how to plan a budget, health and nutrition, self-esteem, how to maintain a household, and how to get along with others. Like other P.L.A.S.E clients, she was provided with three meals a day and assistance in acquiring permanent housing.
        On Friday, July 9, Project P.L.A.S.E. honored more than 50 clients in its first Long-Term and Permanent Housing Awards Ceremony.
       Recognized clients were given one of four awards: Housing, for maintaining permanent or long-term housing for a year or longer; Education, for actively pursuing or completing education or training goals; Employment, for achieving and maintaining employment; and Overcoming Significant Obstacles, for reuniting with family, stabilizing current family situation, staying clean for one year or longer, and/or continuing with mental health treatment.
        Each client honored received a certificate and public acknowledgement for their hard work. Willete Emerson was one of them, with awards for Housing, Employment, and Overcoming Significant Obstacles.
       P.L.A.S.E. has provided case management, transitional housing, job placement, support and counseling to homeless adults since 1973. The organization places an emphasis on helping men and woman that are under-served and the most vulnerable, including AIDS patients, drug addicts, and people with mental illness. The program was designed to help people face their problems and get ready to re-enter society.
        The organization, which serves both men and women, runs three transitional housing facilities, with a 48-bed capacity. A banking system, available on Wednesdays, is set up for clients who are not able to manage their finances and for those for whom P.L.A.S.E. is the representative payee.
        P.L.A.S.E. works with private and public advocacy groups seeking to improve the living conditions of low-income citizens in the Baltimore metropolitan area. Together, the groups work to reform public welfare procedures and community mental health processes and find the means to establish new centers for under-served or ignored minorities.

Project P.L.A.S.E.’s men’s facility is located at 201 E. North Avenue, (410)837-1481; the women’s facility is at 139 E. North Avenue, (410) 539-8352; and the coed facility is at 2031 St. Paul Street, (410) 244-0043.

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This story was published on August 4, 1999.