City will aid stranded families

8 households moving from Flag House, Broadway projects

June 21, 2000|By Kurt Streeter | Kurt Streeter,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore Housing Authority said yesterday officials have found homes for the small cluster of families who say they've been stranded in two dangerous East Baltimore housing projects.

Housing officials have been under pressure to move the remaining eight families at Broadway Homes and Flag House Courts. While hundreds of other residents were relocated to prepare for demolition of the projects, some continue to live there in unsafe, deteriorating conditions.

An authority spokesman made the announcement after a press conference earlier in the day to highlight the progress being made toward demolishing the once crime-ridden Hollander Ridge housing project.

FOR THE RECORD - A story yesterday in The Sun about the relocation of residents living in an East Baltimore housing project incorrectly identified one of the residents, Rhonda Calhoun.
The Sun regrets the errors.

Officials said yesterday at least 90 percent of the project has been torn down, and on July 8 a 20-story tower, the last building to be destroyed, will be blown up.

When the roughly $600,000 demolition is done, the city will use a $20 million federal grant to create a new development, a village-like community for low-income seniors due to be finished by 2002.

Although city officials were able to move all of Hollander Ridge's tenants months ago, they've struggled to find homes for everyone at Flag House and Broadway Homes.

The eight remaining families have lived in isolation in rat-infested, boarded-up buildings with water problems, few outside lights and, in the case of one unit, phones that were cut off. Some residents had taken to arming themselves with baseball bats and knives because of a lack of police protection.

But the housing authority says it has found up-to-code housing every resident will be pleased with.

"We've found everybody a place to live," said spokesman Zack Germroth, noting that the remaining families would likely be moved out over the next few days and that two families had already been moved since Monday.

Germroth said that the housing authority has found homes for a pair of large families that were extremely difficult to relocate because they required four- and five- bedroom apartments. Barbara Calhoun's family, the largest, will be moved to a renovated rowhouse in East Baltimore, Germroth said.

Calhoun said yesterday evening that she had not heard from the city.

"If that's true, it sounds great," said Calhoun, a volunteer teacher's aide. "But I'll wait till I really see something from them."

Germroth continued to defend the housing authority yesterday, saying all eight families had turned down the city's help earlier this year. As an example, Germroth said Calhoun had been offered homes in two West Baltimore public housing developments, The Rosemont and McCulloh Homes, during March and April. Calhoun, he said, turned down the offers.

But Calhoun, worried and sitting in her cramped apartment with a number of children around her, denied such an offer was ever made.

"That's an outright lie," she said. "The city has been covering for themselves through all of this."

Residents deny offers

Another Broadway Homes resident reached yesterday, Shenise Horton, denied that relocation offers were made to her this year.

Calhoun said that she had been offered a chance to move to McCulloh last November and that she declined the offer.

The decision was well within her rights, according to federal guidelines which state that residents being moved have the right of refusal.

"That was the last offer ever made to me," said Calhoun, who added she has simply wanted to remain in East Baltimore because she receives medical care at Johns Hopkins Medical Center. "I was told I didn't have to agree and besides, those places are known for drugs and violence. I tell you what, I'd be better off living here alone and in this mess than having to move my kids to a place like that."

Most former Hollander Ridge residents have been relocated to either public housing projects or have received Section 8 vouchers, government supported help to live in private rentals, said tenants council president Linda Walker. The city once housed about 1,500 low-income residents at the site.

As with Flag House Courts and Broadway Homes, Hollander Ridge is being destroyed and built back up as part of the federal HOPE VI initiative, a federally overseen program to create less densely populated housing for the poor.

Good neighbors

The 20-acre complex has been the subject of dispute during the past few years as the city tried to figure out what to do with a site beset with drugs and crime that was next to Rosedale, a middle-class neighborhood in Baltimore County.

The city agreed to put up a $1.4 million wrought-iron fence, about 8 feet high, between Hollander Ridge and Rosedale. The fence went up after the Rosedale community demanded it be cut off from the housing project, particularly after the 1996 murder of a Rosedale woman by two Hollander Ridge residents.

Federal funding for changes

Under former housing commissioner Daniel P. Henson III, the city pushed forward and successfully won the $20 million HOPE VI grant from the department of Housing and Urban Development in 1997. The proposal, which originally was envisioned by Henson as a plan to build a complex for all ages, was lambasted by national consultants hired by the federal government.

The consultants said no development would work at Hollander Ridge, partly because of its "extremely isolated" locale. Hollander Ridge is sandwiched among an industrial strip, Interstate 95 and the Harbor Tunnel.

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