Limit on electrical appliances angers public housing residents

Petitions circulated against new policy by Annapolis agency

March 06, 2000|By Amy Oakes | Amy Oakes,SUN STAFF

After a small fire on the second floor of her Eastport Terrace home last summer, Devera Pounds was told by the Annapolis Housing Authority to remove her window air conditioner and deep freezer.

She did so without question but now wonders why. Pounds is preparing to file a grievance against the authority. And she's not alone.

"As soon as you buy something to make you comfortable, they take it," said Pounds, who has lived at the public housing development with her two sons and two grandsons for almost three years.

Pounds and other frustrated residents plan to attend the Housing Authority's monthly board of commissioners meeting at 4: 30 p.m. today and voice their concerns. They also plan to present officials with a petition against a recent policy limiting the number of extra appliances used at the city's 10 public housing developments.

P. Holden Croslan, executive director of the Housing Authority, said notices were sent to residents at the end of the summer in response to power outages and electrical fires from wire overloads. Public housing units provide a main electrical service feed adequate for standard appliances.

"These are health and safety issues," Croslan said.

But many residents find the policy unfair and want to challenge the Housing Authority. A crowd of more than 200 packed First Baptist Church on West Washington Street on Thursday evening to meet with a lawyer from Legal Aid Bureau Inc. of Anne Arundel County and discuss their frustration.

Robert Eades, who organized the gathering, said two petitions were passed through the crowd. One protests policies in the new lease, such as the limit on electrical devices, and the other supports filing a joint grievance with the authority about the recent removal of their extra appliances.

Eades spent most of the weekend gathering signatures to be presented at the commissioners meeting. He doesn't expect any action but said residents should show up and support one another.

"Our purpose Monday is to let the board of commissioners know we are unhappy with some of the decisions being made," Eades said Friday.

The Housing Authority controls more than 1,100 units, with an estimated 3,000 residents. The department recently scored a 97.25 percent rating, which is considered high, from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for safety, efficiency and quality.

The gathering Thursday was often heated as residents worried about getting through the summer without air conditioners and coping without washers, dryers and freezers. Janet E. LaBella, chief attorney for the Legal Aid Bureau, answered questions and encouraged people to attend the meeting today.

"This is something the Housing Authority has allowed for years," LaBella told the crowd. "Now, they say you can't have them."

Pounds said when she lost her freezer, she stored food at her mother's and gave the rest away. She often bought in bulk to save money and stored food to cut trips to the market.

"We had a family gathering to use up some of the things," she said.

Leaders from the black community also were present at the meeting and expressed their support.

Carl O. Snowden, one of those leaders, rallied the crowd to go to the commissioners meeting. At the end of an enthusiastic speech, Snowden asked everyone to grab hands and chant "Ms. Croslan, we won't take it anymore."

Gerald Stansbury, president of the Anne Arundel County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said his organization supports the effort.

"I want them to know that the NAACP is watching this mess," Stansbury said.

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