Public Housing Residents Demand Livable Housing!

Communities United members living in Gilmor and McCulloh Homes take their demands to Housing Authority Head Paul Graziano

Public housing protest

(Click the photo above to read City Paper coverage about October 26 meeting and action.)

Residents of Gilmor Homes, McCulloh Homes, and other Baltimore public housing facilities are demanding immediate repairs in their housing developments to secure the health and safety of residents. These residents, members of Communities United, are organizing themselves for real accountability from Housing Authority management and the City and for a comprehensive plan to assure livable units.

Throughout public housing in Baltimore, life threatening conditions include mold, a lack of heat, rodent and insect infestations, water and gas leaks and shut offs, and the risk of electrocution. Residents held a press conference on October 21 to lay out their demands, which include immediate repairs related to sanitation, health and safety and detail how to the overall maintenance system needs to be overhauled.  (A full list of resident demands is below.) As a result, Housing Authority head Paul Graziano agreed to meet with them on October 26

(Click the photo below to read Sun coverage about October 26 meeting and action.)

 October_26_housing_group.jpg

 (Click the photo below to read Sun coverage about October 21 press conference at Gilmor Homes.)

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Alice Wilkerson, a senior citizen living in McCulloh Homes, told the crowd gathered at Gilmor Homes on October 21, “You can smell the mold as you walk into the door of my apartment. It is so bad that I can't sleep there, and I have had to throw away clothing and pillows. Just this morning, water had flooded in again.” Wilkerson said she has lived with these conditions for well over a year, “the worse living conditions I have ever had to live under.”

Tyesha Harrell's Gilmor Homes unit had an electrical fire due to leaking pipes about three weeks ago. “My children and I are still living in dangerous conditions,” she told the media and dozens of public housing residents gathered in a court at Gilmor Homes. “They have replaced electric sockets but not the wiring in the walls damaged by the fire. My son is disabled and the nurse who comes to our home has warned me that he could be taken away over these conditions.” After the residents press conference at Gilmor on October 21, the media toured her apartment.

Demands from Residents in Baltimore City Public Housing

Sanitation, health and safety

Immediate work be done to remedy conditions that endanger residents health and safety:

  • Extermination of rats, mice, roaches, bed bugs, and any and all such infestations.

  • Seal holes created by rats, mice and water leaks that let in the cold, moisture and pests.

  • Fix water leaks and repair all plumbing problems, most urgently those near electric lines and fixtures.

  • Safe abatement of mold, by qualified indoor environmental professionals, from all units and buildings.

  • Placement of all dumpsters away from residences to discourage infestations or insects and vermin.

  • Empty dumpsters at least once a week.

  • Electrical repairs, including closing open sockets and other hazards to residents and fire risks.

  • Repair/replace heating units, particularly in Gilmor Homes. Cold weather is here and too many are without heat.

  • Repair/replace screen doors for all low rise unit with entrances that go directly outdoors.

  • Inspect, fix/replace and insulate all unit doors and windows to keep out the cold.

  • Inspect and fix/replace all unit doors so that they lock properly. In Gilmor Homes, individual apartment doors and door jams are so damaged they can not be secured, and common door locks need to be replaced.

  • Inspect, repair and/or upgrade natural gas supply lines, particularly in McCulloh Homes.

  • Quarterly inspection and removal of trash and debris from all crawl spaces.

  • Replace and/or fix outdoor lighting fixtures to ensure residents safety after dark.

  • Add locks to all first floor windows, particularly in Gilmor Homes.

  • “No Trespassing” signs posted at all common entry ways.

Effective and Accountable Management

There is an enormous backlog of work orders from residents. Residents must wait long periods of time for repairs to be made and even when maintenance shows up, work often is not completed. There needs to be an overhaul of the maintenance system, including:

  • Effective supervision and management of maintenance staff to assure all residents that they are providing the most timely and high quality work possible.

  • Qualified managers to prioritize, delegate and oversee work. Managers should regularly consult with maintenance workers in the ground to assess needs and progress and to set priorities.

  • An increase in the number of competent, experienced maintenance workers.

  • Independent oversight of Housing Authority maintenance work that assures work meets public health standards and that residents grievances are fully addressed. (The Authority has demonstrated that it can not police itself.)

  • Creation of system(s) for facility maintenance staff to regularly and openly communicate with residents and for residents to communicate their maintenance needs directly to staff. This should promote direct communication between residents/residents' representatives and maintenance workers who are providing service.

  • A new efficient and transparent system for work orders so that residents know the status of their requests for repairs and how soon they can expect them to be completed. This should include a receipt to every resident, which records the date, time, and details of the work request.

  • Establish a Resident Advisory Board to represent residents interests with private developers, who are now managing high rise properties. Residents need to be informed on when and how these developers have or will acquire properties.

Comprehensive Plan from the Housing Authority and the City to Make All of Baltimore's Public Housing Livable

Too many in Baltimore public housing are living in deplorable conditions and it is past time for the Housing Authority and the City to come up with a comprehensive plan of action to make all units livable. We call on the Public Housing Authority and the City to immediately conduct a citywide audit of all public housing units – with independent oversight – and to develop a citywide plan to remedy chronic structural problems in all public housing units in Baltimore, including:

  • Full assessment of electrical systems to assure safe and reliable supply of electricity, with detailed time line for upgrades that bring all public housing up to code requirements.

  • Full assessment of plumbing systems to assure safe and reliable supply of clean water, with detailed time line for upgrades that bring all public housing up to code requirements.

  • Inspection of all windows and doors to assure they close properly to keep out the cold in the winter and heat in the summer and that they securely lock (all first floor windows).

  • Full assessment of gas supply lines, to assure safe and reliable supply of natural gas, with detailed time line for upgrades that bring all public housing up to code requirements.

  • Centralize database of all repairs planned and/or specifically requested by residents, which tracks when repairs are complete and residents satisfaction with repairs. This data should be used to hold maintenance managers and workers accountable for their time and effectiveness.

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