Family getting a new, lead-free dwelling Grandmother, 73, faced eviction.

June 19, 1991|By Raymond L. Sanchez | Raymond L. Sanchez,Evening Sun Staff

Thomasena Hester said she wasn't fighting alone.

She was right.

An Evening Sun story about the 73-year-old grandmother and her young grandsons, who were facing eviction from their lead-contaminated West Baltimore home, moved city officials to quickly find her a new home.

News of their plight generated a series of telephone calls from the offices of Mayor Kurt Schmoke and Housing Commissioner Robert W. Hearn.

"There was a sense that, 'My God, something's got to be done for this lady,' " said Bill Toohey, spokesman for the city housing authority.

Today, Hester was to receive the keys to a new, lead-free home at the Rosedale Terrace apartments, said Alfred J. Thumel, chief of the relocation division of the city Department of Housing and Community Development.

"I hadn't given up," Hester says. "All these people were calling me. They were all concerned."

Hester's rented home in the 2100 block of Lexington St., a rundown rowhouse with a leaky kitchen ceiling and cracked and flaking walls, was cited for lead-paint violations in March by the City Health Department.

Hester's landlord, Nock Realty, then gave her 60 days to move. When Hester's lawyer went to Baltimore Circuit Court, arguing that the attempt to evict Hester was retaliatory and illegal, Nock agreed to give the family another 30 days.

Finding a lead-free home had been virtually

impossible. Landlords quickly turned away the family when they learned one of Hester's grandson's had lead poisoning.

In Baltimore last year, 1,148 children were identified with lead poisoning. The plight of Hester and her family is not unusual.

"What's uncommon is being able to come up with a lead-free unit," Thumel said. "They're hard to find."

Hester lives with her three grandsons -- ages 3, 8 and 11 -- and 19-year-old granddaughter. The lead level in the blood of 3-year-old Bernard Williams Jr. was nearly double the federal standard for lead poisoning, medical records show.

The family now plans to move into a spacious three-bedroom apartment in a former school building on Rosedale Street.

"It's beautiful," Hester says. "The boys love it. I like the wall-to-wall carpeting. It's really lovely. I don't have no complaints."

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