Franciscan Center

101 W. 23rd Street, Baltimore, MD 21218

The Franciscan Center has been serving Baltimore’s working poor, indigent, and homeless in the same central location for more than 140 years, adapting again and again to address their most pressing needs.

In 1881, five Franciscan Sisters from England bought a building at Maryland Avenue and 23rd Street in what’s now the Old Goucher neighborhood to open an orphanage for African-American children.

In the 1950s, orphanages gave way to foster homes, so the Sisters created a pioneering school for special needs children.

In the 1960s, that school had succeeded beyond all expectations and moved to a larger campus elsewhere in the city, so the Sisters met with the communities around them to talk about their needs and learned that, for some, getting a solid meal was a daily struggle.

In September 1968, the Center welcomed its first guests for lunch and fellowship. Thirty people were fed that month.

Over time, the number grew—today 250,000 guests and clients a year receive help—and services were added: an emergency pantry, eviction assistance, mailboxes for those in transition, and much more.

In the 1980s, when the AIDS crisis struck, the Center opened one of the city’s first outreach programs to assist those suffering.

In 2020, COVID-19 made getting food difficult, so the Center started a delivery service to provide for those in senior residences, youth groups, community centers, and homeless encampments. And it founded the Dignity Plates Training Academy, a no-cost culinary career preparation program for city residents.

Today, the Franciscan Center is in the midst of a $3.2 million renovation that will enable staff and volunteers to continue to adapt to meet the needs of our fellow Baltimoreans for years to come.

To learn more about what we do and how you can contribute, contact us at [email protected].