Black Women Build-Baltimore (BWB) was founded in 2017 by Shelley Halstead, who combined a law degree, skills and experience as a master carpenter, and a passion for economic and social justice. A home ownership and wealth building initiative, BWG trains black women in carpentry, electrical work, and plumbing, as they restore vacant and deteriorated houses and are helped to buy them. The organization offers its holistic training program to capable women who are ready for change and would not otherwise have the opportunity.
Clients develop trades-related proficiency, as well as financial and home ownership skills. BWB partners with architects, engineers, the City and State Departments of Housing and Community Development, Neighborhood Housing Services, and other women-focused non-profits.
BWB's work is community-based, concentrating in one neighborhood, restoring houses that might otherwise be demolished. To date, BWB has completed and obtained use and occupancy permits for four homes in one block on Etting Street in the Druid Heights neighborhood, a block that formerly had only two occupied houses. Participants in the program are applying for home loans to purchase these complete houses. BWB is now stabilizing two additional homes in the same block and purchasing one more there, as well as obtaining two more houses nearby on Laurens Street.
Until late last year, BWB was one-person operation. BWGC's 2020-2021 grant provides funding for a second employee, who serves as Program Director and Materials Manager.
Due to its creative approach and effectiveness, this fledgling organization has been recognized nationally, as in "How Recycling Existing Buildings Could Solve the Urban Housing Crisis" in Metropolitan Magazine, and in interviews on CNBC with Kelly Clarkson Show, and more.