“I hope they tear this place down, it isn’t safe! It’s got mice, roaches, rats, mold, bedbugs—all kinds of pests…” said Danielle Harris a longtime resident of Perkins Homes. And her sentiment is echoed by many living in the public housing complex. The AFRO spoke to tenants about the conditions at Perkins Homes.
Wanda, who only wanted her first name used, said black mold in her home triggered a health hazard, because she said she has an autoimmune disorder. “I started experiencing, in the bathroom and the kitchen, these big, black spots, like in the corner of the bathtub, which was, they say, mold…When maintenance came they sprayed white paint over the spots in the bathroom…the paint started to wash away in the shower but the mold was still there,” she said.
As residents described deplorable living conditions for their families another story emerged—residents alleged women were being asked to exchange money or sexual favors for maintenance services already guaranteed by their lease. Although many claimed they knew of women who had been harassed, only one woman came forward and shared her notarized statement of the harassment she experienced.
According to a woman identified as “Ms. W” the electricity was intermittent at her home, and her refrigerator would lose power. She says the management office dispatched a maintenance worker who installed a large generator in the kitchen to power her home. When she realized the generator made too much noise for her and her child to sleep, she asked for it to be removed. “He came back out to my house to pick the machine up, and he said it would cost me $150. I did not have it because it was the end of the month, and I had no more money to pay him. He stated to me, ‘Well, we can have sex to clear this bill up,’” according to her statement. This allegation echoes a similar scandal which emerged last year at Gilmor Homes. The city settled a lawsuit for almost $8 million after more than a dozen residents said they had been asked for sex in exchange for repairs.
The AFRO contacted the Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC) and discovered there have been 18 complaints of sexual harassment in Perkins Homes since 2016.
HABC communications director Tania Baker refused to comment specifically on the status of the sexual harassment complaints. “It is HABC policy not to disclose the outcome of any personnel investigation, as personnel matters are confidential by law,” was Baker’s response.
Lucky Crosby a former public housing maintenance worker and whistleblower said that the lack of response was calculated, “I know that sexual harassment is still happening, I’ve heard the complaints and I know women have reported it…but they just sweep it under the rug.”
The complaints about Perkins come as Beatty Development, the company that developed Harbor Pointe in Harbor East, allegedly is moving forward with plans to revitalize and redevelop Perkins Homes.
The question remains, will this have any impact on the plans that Beatty Development and the City of Baltimore have for redevelopment. Last year, a development deal for Perkins with Virginia based CRC Partners fell apart for undisclosed reasons. Beatty Development and Perkins Point Partners have promised, “high-quality housing for people of all income levels,” but have not yet released the details of how many affordable housing units will be available to residents who wish to stay in Perkins homes. Although residents say they are still struggling with conditions in Perkins and fearful of retaliation for their complaints, some are even more fearful the future of Perkins will have no place for them.