Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Southwest Cares

From the Union Square May 2011 Newsletter (PDF)
On Matters of Life and Health - SOUTHWEST CARES

A Johns Hopkins / Baltimore City Health Department report revealed that in 2008, southwest Baltimore area residents had the lowest life expectancy in the city, with the highest or among the highest rates of heart disease and cancer. These outcomes are unacceptable. Southwest Cares is a relatively new organization and believes these outcomes will only change if there is a broad based effort to educate the community about the sources, extent, and impact of the challenges we face; develop a community driven process; create long-lasting, local partnerships that improve trust and coordination among residents, businesses, and government agencies and; establish strategic goals that can be developed, monitored and changed as evidence is gathered.

Southwest Cares is an evolving citizens group motivated to improve healthy outcomes for residents in southwest Baltimore. We have representation and support from the Baltimore City Health Department, neighborhood associations, a medical institution, professionals in the healthcare field and area residents. We are striving for a systematic approach to address health and environmental issues in five areas. 1) trash and pests; 2) vacant lots; 3) community green spaces; 4) healthy housing; 5) access to fresh fruits and vegetables. There has been much groundwork developed through many well-attended community-planning meetings over a two-year period.

We would like to have a representative from Union Square Association participate in our efforts. We meet monthly at Transfiguration Catholic meeting hall in Pigtown, on the second Tuesday of each month at 6:30 pm. There is an open invitation for more citizen and organizational input and direction. A Union Square resident at the table with other association representatives would connect our Association with the important work being undertaken by Southwest Cares. Micha Dannenberg is the group’s interim chair and he can be reached at 443-423-4321. He’d be happy to answer any additional questions you have.

These meetings have been added to the Pigtown Happens Calendar!  Though, it conflicts with Citizens of Pigtown meetings.
Also, note that this Saturday's Artist Flee Market has also been added (taking place in front of Gallery 788 (at 788 Washington Blvd). 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Neighborhood Love: Pigtown

Check out Meg's article over at the Baltimore Sun.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Are we Pigtown or Washington Village? You decide.

New Neighborhood Maps are coming out with the updated census data, and for the first time, rather than being labeled "Washington Village", the Planning Dept  has been considering "Washington Village/Pigtown".   There has been much debate over the name, and we have a chance to set the record straight.  Lets see what the battle looks like.

Washington Village
  • More "user friendly" for marketing purposes
    • Brings more prospective buyers/renters/business
    • Yuppies like it (I might be a yuppie... I haven't seen the definable income brackets)
  • Most maps are currently marked this way
  • Some group names include Washington Village... ie Washington Village Development Association, Bon Secours of Washington Village
  • We don't have to get rid of the pig mascot because the history hasn't changed
  • If tell someone you live in Washington Village, they look at you funny, follow that up with Pigtown... and they go "OH!!!! Pigtown! I know where that is."
  • Easily confused with Mount Washington, or Washington Hill, or any other neighborhood with the word Washington in it
    • Could be a problem when getting directions
    • Not unique

  • It's a historic name (though I've heard some debate that historically the east side of our boundary was not considered a part of the original Pigtown)
  • We are the only neighborhood named "Pigtown" in the whole country... Brooklyn used to have one, but they ditched the name (funny, they also have a Carroll Park)
  • It's unique, and people find identity in that 
  • There are no slogans that say "Pigtown doesn't exist"... There are for the latter
  • Some group names include Pigtown... ie Citizens Of Pigtown, Pigtown Main Street, Pigtown Festival, Pigtown Pharmacy, and this website
  • People find the name derogatory or off-putting
    • Perhaps more visitor education required about the name?
  • Huge turn-off for Realtors
    • The counter-argument is that there are places like NYC's Meat Packing District that do just fine
The biggest argument seems to be that "Washington Village" brings more revenue because, well, it just sounds better.  The argued compromise is to not forget that we're "Historic Pigtown".  It isn't utilized as often as it could be, but  Pigtown Main Street has been working on rebranding the neighborhood under this name.  But it wouldn't show up on the neighborhood map that way, just as Fed Hill doesn't show up as "Historic Federal Hill" on any maps.

Now go to the Citizens of Pigtown website and vote!

And spread the word to your neighbors!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Crossing MLK Boulevard

The Baltimore Sun recently did an article about Fells Point's walkability problem.  

"Citizen fights Fells Point pedestrian changes"

This got me to thinking about our own neighborhood connections.  MLK is a huge barrior between our neighborhood and downtown.  The city even recognizes it in their planning guide.  To be honest, I feel even worse for Ridgleys Delight, our quaint neighbor who is sandwiched between the blazing traffic of MLK and Greene Street.
Image Credit: Blog Baltimore City's Past Present & Future

Taking the advice of a comment from the Sun's aforementioned piece on Fells, I decided to put in a 311 request.  It wasn't as straight forward as I hoped, so I opted for the "Traffic Signal Repair" service.  

Location: Washington Blvd & MLK Blvd
Street names of the intersection:  Washington Blvd & Martin Luther King Blvd
What type of signal problem: Signal is out
Additional Comments:  "Pedestrian signal is "functioning", but leaves a pedestrian to be attacked by oncoming traffic that turns left onto MLK.  Please enable traffic signal to hold red light in all directions when walk button is pushed."
Comments and attachments: "The signal does not meet the city's complete street goals.  Walkability is one of the largest factors in quality of life rating, and greatly enhances the viability of places that have it.  MLK blvd is a highway that divides the west side from downtown and keeps both from succeeding at attracting further development, more homeowners, or any other type of upwardly profitable neighborhood that the city could be proud of." (no attachments: note to self, must take pictures of family trying to cross on walk sign while cars whiz by their sad little faces)
 Do you agree?  Hit up 311.  Disagree?  Fight it out in the comments section.

Also see Baltimore Brew's article "Changing the West Side Story" for more info on the badly divided west side.

Bike to work day - Carroll Park Convoys

Wow... according to the registered groups with bike to work day, every convoy but one starts or ends at Carroll Park!

Clearly there is some need for bike racks and more bike lanes in the area if the traffic is there!

If you, or someone you know, would like to have a bike rack on their street (not for personal 24-hour use), contact Nate Evans, Bicycle & Pedestrian Planner.  nate dot evans at baltimore city dot gov

Are you participating in Bike to Work Day?  Then register!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Fresh Food & Baltimarket

It's no secret that Pigtown is in a food dessert desert.  This term means that there is no immediate access to affordable, healthy foods within a reasonable travel distance.  In fact, The Afro covered this issue in their article "Washington Village/Pigtown Struggles to Provide Healthy Food Options" back in December of 2010.

Southwest Cares has been working with local corner stores, asking that they provide fresh fruits & vegetables.  You, the consumer, have the most say.  Let your corner store know what you want them to carry.  That's why they're there.   

There are a couple stores that offer fresh food, and even deli meat:
  • Marty's Deli,  798 W Cross (Intersection of W Hamburg & W Cross) 410-685-1145
  • American Food Market, 1276 Washington Boulevard (Intersection of Wash Blvd & S Carey) 410-685-8289

View Food Markets in a larger map - I don't think these maps show up well in reader/e-mail, so visit PigtownHappens for a better view.

I noticed that Baltimore Food Co-op is opening up in Spring 2011 at 2800 Sisson St.  Hopefully, one day we will have our own full service grocer, or co-op!  I've been to the quaint store, Glut, a food co-op in Mt Rainier, MD just outside of DC that people from all over flock to.  If you go, it's clear to see why.  I also met a couple people who are starting one in Brunswick, MD.  They said they got grant money to go to conferences, and obtain information about starting a co-op.  Co-ops are businesses owned by lots of people in the community, sort of like owning shares.  In return, the share owners receive member-only discounts.  Want to start one in Pigtown?  Check the Food Co-op Initiative for info!

Don't forget the local farmers markets.  There is one on the west side at 400 N. Smallwood Street, by the MARC station.  That is open Saturdays 8am-noon.  Another over the bridge, down Hanover in the Harbor Hospital parking lot which falls on the last Thursday of the month from noon-4.  Lastly, there is the big farmers marker and bazaar under 83, corner of Holliday and Saratoga.  That's every Sunday from 7-noon. 

In the meantime, there's a great free delivery service that the city is offering called Baltimarket!  They know that not everyone can make it a grocery store to access healthy foods, and want to fill that gap.  If you ask me, a single parent should be able to raise her children healthfully (mentally and physically) and still make ends meet.  Sometimes that means not having the financial burden of a car.

Bless them for providing us with two locations.  George Washington Elementary:
And the Enoch Pratt Library:

Eric Jackson, the Community Health Organizer, showed up to the last Friends of Carroll Park meeting (every first Tuesday at 7pm, 1307 Washington Blvd).  He's graciously taking all sorts of ideas to promote this program and make it better.  He wants to hear from the community about why you haven't considered the program, and how it can be better run to suit your needs.  This is the only program of it's kind in the country!  Be a part of something awesome, that can help other areas in the future!

Promotion codes are coming out, so you can order from the privacy of your own computer.  Now that the elementary school location is available after 5, I'll have to check it out!  Working normal business hours made it impossible to participate at the library.  Payment is accepted in cash, EBT, debit, and credit.  With your first order, you will receive a free insulated bag, and $10 credit toward healthy foods.  You will get an addition $10 credit toward healthy food purchases with every 4th order.  In addition to those deals, people over 60 62 years of age will get a 10% 5% discount.  Sounds like there's no excuse NOT to try it out.  I believe Eric will even be talking about Baltimarket at the COP meeting (May 10th 7pm at 904 Washington Blvd).

So finally, what can we all do to make this wonderful program even better?  Consider helping your less physically able neighbors by offering to pick up or carry their groceries for them.  It's a good thing to do, and your community will be better for it.

People's Community Health Center Open Gates - Pigtown's Primary Care Facility

I recently spoke with the new Regional Operations Director for Peoples Community Health Centers, SW Baltimore.  Vincent Sizemore is a patient, caring person.  He's a Baltimore native, which certainly shows by looking at his proud Ravens tattoo.  He is diligently trying to work with the community to improve relations and accessibility to all.  His office is here in Pigtown, so this will be his "home away from home" as he'll be around most days of the week. 

People's Open Gates, Image by GBA Architects
"People’s Community Health Centers’ Open Gates location has been a vital part of the Pigtown community for many years. Located at 1111 Washington Boulevard, the Open Gates Center is a full-service health care facility that sees an average of 200 patients each week. From kids’ checkups to women’s health to helping you get rid of the sniffles, Open Gates has you covered. We provide solid, dependable primary care as well as mental health and substance abuse services. In addition, we recently began construction on a state-of-the-art dental suite that will bring the latest in dental technology to the Pigtown community."
"For 40 years, People’s has believed that everyone’s entitled to quality medical care. At locations around Baltimore City and Anne Arundel County, People’s has provided solid, dependable care to all who seek it.Our team of experienced medical professionals are among the best in the business. They are available to see patients as follows:Jocelyn Hines, M.D., Family Practice
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday 9-4:30; Thursday 9-12:30Dana Lee, M.D., OB/GYN
Monday and Friday 9-4:30Bridgett Weiss, Nurse Practitioner, Family Practice
Monday-Friday 9-4:30Gina Rowe, Nurse Practitioner, Family Practice
Monday and Tuesday 9-4:30To schedule an appointment at Open Gates, call 410-467-6040.
People’s and Pigtown: partners in neighborhood health."

Their website includes other great info about their non-profit and the services they provide.   I also had a few questions, that hopefully help others:
  • Is it open to all income levels?  ie - can someone who makes $100,000/year and has insurance go?
    • PCHC is open to all income levels and insured patients. The only insurance we do not take is Kaiser and Jai.
  • Does Open Gates act as an urgency care center for smaller issues that may not require going to the Emergency room?
    • PCHC has urgent walk ins on a daily basis. You can get an appointment or come in and we will fit you in for medically urgent issues.
  • Can you go to Open Gates if you're delivering a baby?
    • PCHC has an OB/GYN on staff that see’s pregnant ladies and delivers at Maryland General Hospital. We do not deliver at the clinic.
  • Does Open Gates dispense any prescriptions? 
    • PCHC has an off site pharmacy the delivers twice a day to our centers. This pharmacy is for our patients. We are not a retail pharmacy.
  • Is there any limit to the kind of prescriptions Open Gates can write?  I guess one of the things I was thinking for prescriptions was birth control.
    • Medical providers can write almost any type of prescription, however our pharmacy has a limited formulary. We would be happy to provide you with this if needed. As far as birth control, our providers write and our pharmacy fill on a daily basis. So yes we do provide birth control.
  • It looks like you also sell health insurance according to your website.  Are there any brief details on that?  Is that sliding scale based?
    • We do not sell health insurance. We do have a sliding fee that is based on the patients income. We also assist patients with applying for PAC and Medical Assistance. Our goal is to get patients insured if they are eligible.
  • Also do you have free condoms?  
    • We do have condoms as well as doing free HIV testing, and free pregnancy test.
  • A friend of mine gets a prescription for hyperactivity.  Is that the sort of mental health service that Open Gates could provide, or write a prescription for?
    • Open Gates has a mental health counselor. Our Psychiatrist works out of our Brooklyn Park and Hero (Maryland Ave.) offices.
They are a primary care facility, which means they do annual physicals, pap smears, mammograms for women over 40, and other services that don't require a referral to a specialist.  A basic visit is about $20-25.  For sliding scale consideration, you will be required to bring proof of income and government ID.  Tax documents may be required for further verification depending on your circumstances (ie - unemployed).  

Give 'em a visit!  Vincent will be at the COP meeting (May 10th 7pm at 904 Washington Blvd), so feel free to stop in and ask him any questions you have.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Quick Recap on local news

The construction going on at sidewalk intersections is to create handicap ramps at all corners.  This will bring our area up to code, and provide better accessibility to all Pigtown residents and visitors.  Glad to hear it, since most wheel chairs I see in town are cruising down the street.  That's not very safe!

Business News:
Perfecto, the coffee shop at 784 Washington Blvd, has gone out of business.  I'm not sure what the issue was exactly, but there seemed to be only one employee, and after he resigned it looks like the owner threw in the towel.
Steel Drum Cafe, the bar/restaurant at 771 Washington Blvd, does not have an "out of business" sign, but their doors were closed this weekend when they would normally be open.  I heard they had been that way for a few days at least. 

Political News:
Adam Van Bavel and Bill Marker are a couple of local boys running for a city council seat.  Please be sure to check them out and consider who you would like representing you!  Remember, if you're not making these decisions, someone else is making them for you.  This goes for being more involved in your community as well.
It looks like the new council district zones will take effect after the new election.  Until then, Pigtown remains in 3 different districts. 
Here they are helping out at Pigtown's Rebuilding Day:
Bill Marker

Adam Van Bavel

Rebuilding Day went very well.  Thanks to Amanda Malone of Rebuilding Together Baltimore for helping with that!  You can check out a few pictures from that event as well as the Housewerks Tag Sale, and Gallery 788 Flea Market on Pigtown Main Street's Facebook photo album and Pigtown Fan's Facebook photo album.  Lots of things were going on this weekend!

Events News:
  • Tuesday May 3rd at 7pm there will be a Friends of Carroll Park meeting at Wayman's AME Church, 1307 Washington Blvd.
  • Thursday May 5th 6-10pm there will be a gallery opening at Gallery 788 (and I'm guessing 21g as well, which is just two doors down), 788 Washington Blvd.  They tend to be quite the event, so check it out!!
  • Tuesday May 10th at 7pm there will be a Citizens of Pigtown (COP) community meeting at the bath house, 904 Washington Blvd.  Enter through the side door.
  • Saturday May 14th, and Saturday May 28th there will be a neighborhood cleanup with Washington Village Development Association (WVDA).  Meet at 9:30am at the interesection of W Cross & Washington Blvd.
  • Thursday May 19th there will be a Southern District Community Meeting at the Southern District Police Station on 10 Cherry Hill Rd.  There is free food.  Just go.  It's delicious.  And informative.
All of these events are on the PigtownHappens calendar.  Check the calendar for your nearby Citizens on Patrol walk, where the natives stroll around with an officer. 

May is National Bike Month!  Feel free to participate in Baltimore's Bike Challenge!  There are events throughout the whole month.  Bike To Work Day is May 20th, and there will be a Carroll Park station set up with refreshments for those pedaling commuters at the corner of Monroe & Washington Blvd.  Check the map for other stops on your way to work:

View 2011 Bike To Work Day Stations in a larger map