Shelter skelter

May 31, 1991

By bureaucratic standards, six months isn't much. But for families in the city's crime plagued high-rises, who are waiting to be moved to safer housing, six months is a long time.

Certainly Mayor Schmoke issued a tall order when he told city housing officials to come up with a plan to move 2,000 people out of 18 high-rise buildings after a task force found them unsafe for children. No one could reasonably expect a complete, specific plan to have emerged by this time. But the city housing authority has done nothing.

Not that it had to start from scratch. The mayor's task force recommended that the city use the high-rise buildings only for single adults, especially the elderly. One public housing official, who left the authority in March, started the process by exploring ways to move the families out of the targeted buildings and re-use the buildings. She even outlined the federal government's procedures for writing a plan to transfer the tenants. But nothing has happened since.

The housing authority has reasons for its foot-dragging -- but none good. With school almost out for the summer, the problem becomes more pressing: Children will spend longer periods of time in housing which everyone agrees is dangerous. More than Mayor Schmoke's moral commitment is required now. Baltimore's low-income families need better, safer housing. Pontification is a poor substitute for the substantial work and leadership that are required.


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