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Baltimore non-profit that provides jobs for at risk youth, food to community faces eviction from the city

Posted at 10:51 PM, Nov 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-06 23:19:02-05

BALTIMORE — A Baltimore non-profit that's been a lifeline for the Southwest Baltimore community for years, especially during the pandemic, said its services could stop after receiving an eviction notice from the city.

Co-Founder of U Empower of Maryland Michelle Suazo said she received the notice on Tuesday. The non-profit, which also runs a program called The Food Project, had an agreement with the city since 2018 to use an old school as its headquarters.

Suazo said the non-profit has been given an order to leave by the end of the year.

“I can’t just go to another kitchen," she said. "Everything comes to a halt.”

For the past seven years, the non-profit has provided food to families in need, along with other vital services. It's also taken dozens of kids off the streets and gave them jobs.

“The kids that work in my kitchen deserve to be heroes. They should be heroes of Baltimore because they are stepping up to stand for something different," she said.

One of those kids is Demonta Palmer, who started working with Suazo after his brother was killed. He said he's trying to set an example for his nephews that there's a better way than turning to the streets.

"You don’t got to be in the streets selling drugs. You don’t got to do that...there’s a different way," he said.

Palmer said if the non-profit has to leave, he feels kids will have no choice, but to go back to the streets.

Suazo said she doesn't know why she's getting evicted even after she notified the city about expanding her space in the former school.

The Mayor’s Office sent us a statement with their explanation, saying that the non-profit’s right of entry expired, adding "they acknowledged themselves at the beginning of the year that the space didn’t suit their needs.”

But, Suazo said that's not true. She's hoping the city will have a change of heart.

“By getting an eviction notice from Baltimore says that Baltimore doesn’t care and I know that’s not the case. I know there’s so much support out there and it doesn’t make sense and we need to send a different message to the children.”

We reached out to the city again to have them elaborate on their statement, but we did not hear back.

The group is lobbying to stay in its spot. They've collected hundreds of signatures on a petition drive. You can click here to sign the petition.