Catalyst Magazine
University of Maryland, Baltimore President Bruce E. Jarrell, MD, FACS, and University of Maryland School of Social Work professor Jodi Jacobson Frey, PhD, LCSW-C, CEAP, celebrate the Chase AdvancingCities award. Photo by Matthew D'Agostino

Powerful Collaboration: UMSSW Leads Evaluation of Partnership to Empower Black and Latinx Women

The University of Maryland School of Social Work (UMSSW) will lead the evaluation of and disseminate research to benefit a new West Baltimore collaborative to empower Black and Latinx women to gain wealth-building and entrepreneurial skills thanks to funding from JPMorgan Chase & Co.

A $20 million commitment by JPMorgan Chase was announced this year at Kirby Lane Park in Franklin Square, where a news conference celebrated the funding of several opportunities for employed, asset-limited Black and Latinx women in Baltimore.

Part of that $20 million commitment includes a $5 million grant and three-year partnership with the Prioritizing Our Women’s Economic Rise (POWER) Collaborative to create a continuum of wealth-building and work skill development programs for Black and Latinx women real estate developers in West Baltimore.

The POWER Collaborative, led by the Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC), includes UMSSW, the University of Maryland, Baltimore Community Engagement Center (UMB CEC); the city of Baltimore; Black Women Build Baltimore; Byte Back; Baltimore-D.C. Building Trades; and Baltimore Community Lending.

“This partnership will allow UMSSW to learn from the community what really works with regard to workforce training opportunities for women interested in construction trades and on-the-job training opportunities, in addition to working with partners to support system reform that will work to remove barriers to wealth-building, including homeownership barriers throughout the city,” said UMSSW professor Jodi Jacobson Frey, PhD, LCSW-C, CEAP.

JPMorgan Chase’s annual AdvancingCities Challenge awarded Baltimore a $5 million grant as one of five recipients in this year’s challenge. LEDC of Washington, D.C., is the lead agency in this collaborative.

POWER will encompass three leading accelerators to achieve its goals in the long run: small business development incubator and accelerator programs; skills training in high-growth nontraditional occupational sectors such as construction trades, technology, and affordable real estate development; and accessible financing and grant funding to develop affordable homes in West Baltimore addressing the appraisal gap.

Community Engagement

The UMB CEC, at 16 S. Poppleton St., will provide LEDC and other partners space to provide small business development services.

The resources concentrate on the 21223 ZIP code, which includes several of the neighborhoods that UMB serves directly through its community engagement efforts. These neighborhoods also include some that are eligible as part of UMB’s Live Near Your Work program, which helps UMB employees purchase homes to help revitalize the area.

“Programs in the Community Engagement Center include things that help individuals get their high school degree, learn how to run a business, accounting, and the like,” said UMB President Bruce E. Jarrell, MD, FACS. “There are a lot of activities at the Community Engagement Center that are very focused on West Baltimore.”

UMSSW worked with the project team to develop the evaluation plan and propose metrics that will help the team to measure success and barriers along the way.

“UMB will play a key role in terms of analyzing our success,” Jarrell said. “Hopefully this will be the start of even further development.”

The evaluation team is led by principal investigator Frey, who also is chair of the Financial Social Work Initiative (FSWI) and faculty executive director of the Behavioral Health and Well-Being Lab (BHWell Lab), of which the FSWI is affiliated.

The team also includes co-investigators Christine Callahan, PhD, LCSW-C, research associate professor for FWSI, and Jeffrey Anvari-Clark, MSW, MA, adjunct professor and UMSSW doctoral student, who worked with the collaborative to identify goals and measurable outcomes, including the project’s logic model. The team also will hire a full-time program manager for the grant.

Tapping into FWSI and the BHWell Lab, this team can provide valuable research to see what really does work in a real-world application of housing equity and wealth-building equity.

“This project will generate important data and insights that will contribute to improved understanding of equitable approaches to neighborhood and real estate development,” Frey said.

‘Glue That Holds Our Families Together’

The need is dire in Baltimore to fund equitable opportunities for the 66 percent of Black and Latinx Baltimore households that are deemed to have liquid-asset poverty, and for the 15,000 vacant homes in the city that devalue neighborhoods, create opportunities for crime, and are dangerous for firefighters and first responders who enter for calls for service as this city tragically experienced this year.

“How do we have the greatest impact and drive the most equitable growth we can across this region? It means a continued focus on expanding access to capital, increasing access to affordable housing and homeownership, and collaborating with companies and policymakers and community organizations to create lasting change,” said Peter Scher, vice chairman, JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Part of the initiative will help Black and Latinx developers access flexible capital, including grants to close the appraisal gap on vacant homes in West Baltimore neighborhoods.

JPMorgan Chase also announced a $2 million commitment to Parity Homes in Harlem Park, overlooking the stretch of U.S. 40 deemed the Highway to Nowhere. These funds will assist Parity Homes in creating 200 new homeownership opportunities for low-income households and a construction apprenticeship program. This initiative will help scale up community-centric development models and increase demand for homeownership opportunities in neighborhoods experiencing an excessive concentration of vacant homes. The goal is to create pathways for existing residents and other social collectives to purchase homes together block-by-block as a means of community-building and wealth-building. 

This population also was negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with Latinx women in particular showing the highest unemployment rate of any group across the United States and standing at 20.1 percent in April 2020.

“We know that Black and Latina women oftentimes are the glue that holds our families together and our communities together. If you want to learn how to do it in Baltimore, follow Black and Latina women,” Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said. “They have been on the front lines, the back lines of every line of this pandemic as caregivers, front-line workers, business owners, the folks who are delivering food to their neighbors.”

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Charles Schelle

Charles Schelle is lead social media specialist in the Office of Communications and Public Affairs at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

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