Two and a half years after a nearby fire rendered it uninhabitable, Catholic Charities’ Esperanza Center is moving back home.

“It’s been a long time in the making,” said Matt Dolamore, Esperanza Center program director. “We are grateful for our neighbors at the Johns Hopkins Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response. Thanks to CEPAR we were able to temporarily relocate some of our offices to the Assisi House to conduct vital in-person medical care for various clients. But let me tell you, there’s no place like home.”

The four-alarm fire on Sept. 7, 2018, at the Budeke Paint store caused extensive smoke and water damage inside the Esperanza Center. Although the roof and walls of the center never collapsed, the building was deemed uninhabitable until major repairs and renovations were completed.

“It’s hard to describe how happy we are to be home again, in our own space,” said Wardi Donnelly, healthcare coordinator supervisor for Esperanza Center. “It was an adventure at our temporary space, to say the least, but we made it work because the community needed us, and they continue to need us to help guide them through the pandemic.”

A vital community resource

“Returning to our restored and improved home in Fells Point has been a community effort,” said Catholic Charities Executive Director Bill McCarthy. “From finding scattered site spaces in order to continue our work with little disruption, to clean-up efforts, to financial support, we would not be returning home without the collective effort of so many. Esperanza Center is a vital resource to our new neighbors across Maryland and we are elated to see our clients returning to the center as we operate within COVID-19 restrictions.”

The Esperanza Center is not operating at full capacity at this time, due to the pandemic.

“We are only seeing our long-standing clients that need to be seen for evaluations, while most clients continue to be seen virtually,” said Dr. Bill Gough, nurse practitioner and primary on-staff clinician at Esperanza Center. “A portion of our clients simply need refills, while others have more serious health issues such as diabetes, and that’s when we need to see them and conduct full examinations.”

Staffers at the Esperanza Center are gladly welcoming new and established clients for telehealth and phone consultations, to then determine who needs an office visit.

“Prior to the pandemic, we saw approximately 400 walk-ins patients in a day,” said Donnelly. “Our biggest concern is where did they go and will they come back to receive the treatment they need.”

Catholic Charities has more than 80 programs in 200 locations throughout Central Maryland.