At National Lumber, we have the privilege of getting to work with fantastic builders and contribute to the projects they have underway. Today we want to highlight Black Women Build – Baltimore, a West-Baltimore based wealth-creation and home-building program. We spoke with Shelley Halstead, the founder of BWB, about the initiative.
What is Black Women Build – Baltimore?
Founded in 2017, BWB is a home-ownership and wealth-building initiative that focuses on diminishing the wealth gap for Black women in Baltimore. Home-ownership is a key contributing factor in building financial stability and intergenerational wealth. Black households in Baltimore experience higher rates of unemployment, have lower net worths and generally earn less than half of their white counterparts. BWB seeks to address localized racial wealth inequality among black women in West Baltimore by training participants in carpentry, plumbing, and electrical work. They then have the opportunity to purchase the homes they build.
The Journey So Far
To select participants, BWB accepts applications on their website. As mentioned above, BWB doesn’t function just as a skills-training initiative. The core goal is to help participants build homes that they will be purchasing at the end of the building process. This helps endow each participant with knowledge about the inner workings of their home and helps build a stronger attachment to the home and the community they’re working to revitalize.
This community-oriented approach ties into how the homes are built. These aren’t fix-and-flips. Instead, BWB is building in clusters of homes, block by block in West Baltimore. Participants also agree to not sell for at least five years upon purchase of their completed home. This way the impact isn’t just relegated to the personal growth of participants but is making tangible progress towards building a strong sense of community in an often neglected area of the city. So far, BWB has completed a cluster of four houses. They have the capacity to build three houses in clusters every 4 to 5 months. The program is growing, so they’re always seeking eager applicants.
How Did BWB Get Started?
Black Women Build – Baltimore was founded by Shelley Halstead in 2017. Halstead worked as a carpenter for 25 years, including as a member of the Local 131 Carpenters Union in Seattle, Washington from 1996 to 2009. She conducted electrical work in Antarctica for a period. Halstead also received a law degree from the University of Washington School of Law. Eventually, Halstead moved to DC to do policy work before relocating to Baltimore and passing the Maryland Bar. Instead of working in law, Halstead founded BWB as an initiative to help address issues of racial wealth inequality and prevalent blight. She identified how those in the community lag in net worth and intergenerational wealth, and BWB is a tool to help process these challenges for local residents.
The Future of Black Women Build – Baltimore
The hyphenated title of the initiative is no mistake: Halstead sees the potential for what BWB is doing to be replicated across the country. Her hope is that the program can be expanded to other regions over time, addressing the needs of the local communities. Within Baltimore, she looks forward to eventually expanding to other neighborhoods where the service would be beneficial and continuing to grow the team of women who can train and mentor participants.
Work With National Lumber
The team at National Lumber is proud to supply the crucial work BWB is doing in our city. As a woman in the male-dominated construction industry, Halstead said she appreciates that she’s been treated with respect by the National Lumber team and highlighted Jon from our sales team for his great work ensuring BWB always gets the building materials they need.
It’s been a pleasure to supply projects for Black Women Build – Baltimore, and we look forward to seeing how this initiative will continue to grow and address inequality within Baltimore.
If you’d like to contribute to the great work they do, click here.
And if you’re ready to get started on your next big project, don’t hesitate to contact the expert team at National Lumber for all of your building supply needs.