Minister To Oversee Housing Accord

Ex-montgomery County Executive Hired For Move Of Inner-city Families

April 25, 1997|By James Bock | James Bock,SUN STAFF

The Rev. Charles W. Gilchrist, a former Montgomery County executive who joined an inner-city ministry, was named yesterday to oversee an agreement to enable more than 2,000 black Baltimore public-housing families to move to mostly white, middle-class areas.

U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis appointed Gilchrist as special master in the partial settlement of a desegregation lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland against Baltimore and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The agreement, approved by the judge in June, committed $300 million in federal funds to allow Baltimore to demolish all its family public-housing high-rises and to relocate 3,200 families, two-thirds in middle-class neighborhoods. The agreement aroused suburban opposition, especially in eastern Baltimore County.

Gilchrist, 60, whose duties have not been defined in detail, said he would start work right away to "form a view of how I can be most helpful in this process." He is expected to meet with neighborhood groups and report to Garbis. He and the judge were Harvard Law School classmates.

Gilchrist said he would "reluctantly resign" from New Song Urban Ministries in Sandtown-Winchester, where he has been director of operations since October. He said he would continue to live in the low-income West Baltimore neighborhood.

The former two-term Montgomery County executive left Democratic politics in 1986 to become an Episcopal priest. He ran a shelter system in a poor Chicago neighborhood for five years before moving to Baltimore.

"We look forward to working with him," said Barbara Samuels, an ACLU lawyer. "We think he brings a lot of good skills to the job."

Lisa L. Walker, an attorney for the city, said she was pleased with the appointment.

No public-housing residents have yet been relocated to the suburbs under the agreement. The city and HUD are hiring an agency to counsel tenants and run the program.

Construction of a rowhouse community is under way at the site of the old Lafayette Courts high-rise project in East Baltimore. Lafayette Courts was razed in 1995.

The Lexington Terrace project in West Baltimore was demolished last summer. Plans are to raze the Murphy Homes high-rises on the west side next year and the Flag House Courts complex, east of downtown, before 2001.

Pub Date: 4/25/97

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