Slum Clearance: Relocating Public Housing Residents Without Notice
Many residents of the Gilmor Homes housing project say they did not receive notice from Baltimore officials about the city’s plan to demolish six buildings and put 40 percent of the property in private hands
TOLU SOSANYA: The purpose of this meeting was to hear concerns from Gilmor residents, but also community members. So, I live across the street from Bruce Court and as a community member, hearing about the demolition, I got concerned because I know people in Gilmor homes, and just as resident and as an advocate was concerned about their placement, that they had options. [I] was concerned that the relocation, wherever families might be relocated, that they are relocated in areas that have good transportation and good schools. And so, that was a concern of mine. I’m also concerned just with some of the development I’ve seen in the city. I think that development is good, but I think that when you displace people in the process, I think that’s not good, and some of the concerns that arose were “Where are we going?” “Will there be adequate transportation?” “Will it be close to a hospital?” “Will it be close to amenities such a grocery stores and malls?”
There were some specific concerns about not being moved to specific locations, especially as the mayor cited that crime was the reason for the demolition. There are other developments in Baltimore City that also have a lot of crime around them. And so, there was a concern about being potentially moved to those places that have crime.
What I find most concerning is that all but one person in the audience said that they had not received any notice from the housing authority and that my flyer that I put out was the first communication they received about the demolition. So, that’s a problem. And so, again, just wanting to make sure that people are informed and that they have a voice in the process.
DURRE SMITH: The only thing that we truly know is that, you know, we can just only go based upon what we’ve already seen in the other areas in the city. And, I mean, that’s exactly what it seems like. It seems that, you know, soon enough they’re going to remove residents. And they did say that 40 percent of the property will go to a private owner. So, I’m not sure what else to call that, but if it was public housing and it’s going to, you know, private owners, it sounds like gentrification to me. You know? I understand why that would be brought up as a concern. That’s exactly what it sounds like and that’s what it looks like.
RHONDA STOKES: My mom, she’s a resident of the Gilmor homes projects, however she doesn’t reside in any of the buildings that they’re planning on demolishing, but it will impact her on many different levels. One, the demolition, the dust, she could suffer from that. And then if she has to be relocated eventually, the cost and her transportation.
SASHA JONES: I am here as a supporter of the residents of Gilmor homes. I work with an organization located in the neighborhood, No Boundaries Coalition. What I do in general is I organize around food and food access, however this conversation around housing justice, resident justice is very important to me, especially since it’s happening right in our backyard. Lots of our neighbors, our customers at our produce stall live in Gilmor homes. They live in this area and we’re all going to be affected. So, we held … I just supported this meeting this evening.
It was actually organized by a resident of one of the homeowners in the neighborhood, Tolu Sosanya, as well as an organization that has been working here, Tubman House, came together to organize this meeting to allow residents a platform to voice their concerns and to start to organize, so that when the time comes, we’ll be able to present our demands to the housing authority instead of what has happened repeatedly throughout Baltimore and across the country as public housing developments are demolished, that the residents of those neighborhoods are given very short notice, not given any choices, and are put in positions where they might be a financially more stable community, however those people become more unstable by their loss of connection to their neighbors, their community, their family member that live next door, the corner store owner that’s gives them a lot of credit, easy access to transportation to their work, to their schools, childcare for their children.
This meeting is the first of many that will allow residents a space to come together to change that narrative so that we don’t fall prey to what has happened previously, but that the injustices in this neighborhood do not continue in the future as it becomes more and more clear what the plans are for Sandtown-Winchester.