Federal lawsuit alleges residents of city housing project where Freddie Gray grew-up were asked to have sex in exchange for maintenance work
TAYA GRAHAM, TRNN: This is Taya Graham reporting for the Real News Network here in Baltimore City, Maryland. This is Gilmor Homes, where Freddie Gray lived and died while in police custody. But there’s been another cry for help here, this time from their women. In the aftermath of the death of Freddie Gray, Gilmor Homes was a symbol of neglect. But now allegations have surfaced that one of the city’s most troubled housing projects was not just ignored, but a site of active exploitation. PERRY HOPKINS, COMMUNITIES UNITED: It really didn’t hit me until I called a community meeting. Several people came to the meeting, and I asked for community problems. Not individual. And this was the number one problem. GRAHAM: A federal lawsuit filed today alleges several female residents of Gilmor Homes were asked to exchange sex for home repairs and pest control. Which is why two Baltimore lawyers have filed a federal lawsuit today. CARY HANSEL, ATTORNEY, HANSEL LAW: And to be in a situation where these women are subjected to life-threatening conditions unless they sleep with maintenance men who we pay with our tax dollars is just simply not acceptable. GRAHAM: A complaint which reveals widespread abuse uncovered by Communities United caseworker Perry Hopkins. HOPKINS: I had spoke to someone in the meeting who expounded on her experience. And she told me that she had told the rental office about it. And they said, well, next time just tell us who he is and we’ll send somebody else. GRAHAM: Including sexual demands on a disabled woman who was denied safety handrails in her bathroom, and residents who told authorities that underage girls were also targeted for sexual abuse. ANNIE B. HIRSCH, ATTORNEY, HIRSCH & COSCA: It’s unfathomable to me, and I wouldn’t try to guess how these women feel because I’ve never been subjected to such gross violence. But to just try to imagine it is, is–it shocks the conscience, it truly does. GRAHAM: It’s a pattern people say has continued despite complaints to the city. Allegations residents say they’ve experienced firsthand. GILMOR HOMES RESIDENT: Well, he asked me to send him some pictures. And I asked him, pictures of my feet. He wanted pictures of my pedicured feet. GRAHAM: We spoke to a woman who told us a city maintenance worker asked for pictures of her feet in exchange for repairs. GILMOR HOMES RESIDENT: I felt invaded. I felt disrespected, I let him know I felt disrespected. Because I wanted to know what made him think just because he asked for pictures of my feet that he should get them. GRAHAM: And when she said no, her apartment sat unfixed for several years. Which has prompted her and other women to seek a way out of a community that appears to be under siege from all sides. GILMOR HOMES RESIDENT: I’ve been waiting for a transfer for two years, and haven’t gotten that yet either. GRAHAM: We contacted City Hall and the Housing Authority for comment, but they’ve yet to get back to us. For now, the seven women wait for their day in court, and for justice. This is Taya Graham and Stephen Janis reporting for the Real News Network here in Baltimore City, Maryland.