(Baltimore Fire Department responds to vacant house fire last night in the 1200 block of Mosher Street, an entirely vacant block on north side of street. It is slated soon for demolition, according to community leaders).
I heard sirens in my head for weeks. And the stench of burnt wood consumed my nostrils every time I walked up the street, down the street, around the corner. Dead bodies everywhere you turn. The elders are fearful of their lives. They have to give way to addicts going to shoot up. More people are leaving as the Fentanyl that is widely distributed by greedy black dealers is causing countless ODs, even with experienced addicts. Several cats who just come home from prison try this new dope and die. And a lot of these kids out here are thoroughly hooked on Percocets. On top of it, white addicts are coming here from all over the place and crashing in vacants. Between the drug dealing, the drug abuse, the vacants, and the fires – our beloved Sandtown has seemingly gone to hell! Bet this wouldn’t happen in Guilford!
(SANDTOWN – April 24, 2019) – While fires in Paris and Louisiana drew international attention last week, Baltimore has its own fire issue that has consistently blossomed since “Freddie Gray” in April 2015: Vacants! Last night, another vacant caught on fire, presumably (who knows? It could have been arson again), in the 1200 block of Mosher Street. That north side of the block, incidentally, is entirely vacant. Slated for demolition in the future, traumatized neighbors, like Sandtown South’s Eric Stephenson, say that cannot happen soon enough.
Sandtown goes from North and Fulton roughly westward to Penn-North and south to Fremont and Lafayette and back west to Fulton. Is is an historic West Baltimore community that once brimmed with pride, lots of families, and plenty of community churches and organizations. Since 1999 when Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley took over, Sandtown has been on a steady decline. This neighborhood was really nice. And now, it has gone to crap. People are leaving in groves, including Mr. Henry. I’m sad, but glad he moved.
Last April, the southern part of Historic West Baltimore’s Sandtown community saw at least a dozen fires in one four-square block area directly adjacent to William Pinderhughes (now) Homeless Shelter at 1200 N. Fremont. This school building-turned-shelter, by the way and as has been reported in the past, is directly opposite two open-air drug markets. Further, it is located one block from Pennsylvania Avenue. Long a haven for illicit drug activity, this area is supersaturated with drug dealing and addiction. Mr.Henry was the lone resident in the 1100 block of Winchester.He lived through hell.
Photo: Emergency personnel are called to the 1200 N. Fremont Avenue homeless shelter around the clock.
If Pennsylvania Avenue was bad before Freddie Gray, then now it is on steroids in terms of deadliness. The roar of EMT sirens is a norm as addicts here OD daily. Hardly anyone is surprised to see a person doing the “dope dance” in public, even in the middle of the street.
The bottom line is that a homeless shelter, lots of illegal drugs being bought and sold, along with a plethora of vacant houses is a lethal combination.
To add to this, while the former Pinderhughes Elementary School was one of three in Sandtown, the Baltimore City Public School system wants to close either Gilmor Elementary of the new Pinderhughes on Gold Street. Here’s a fact: If you want to kill a community, close a school.
In all, the people of Sandtown have been left with very little hope. From Penn-North to the Avenue Market, there is no clear solution. The problem is, though, there is a belief that the Consent Decree is going to make things better.
As a result of the Freddie Gray Uprising in 2015, the Consent Decree was designed to bring more accountability to the police department. However, it has had an adverse effect. Cops have literally taken a knee. What’s left is terror.
People shouldn’t have to live like this. Our seniors should not have to be exposed to a “Hamsterdam” (as in HBO’s The Wire) scenario where the City turns a blind eye.
This is completely unacceptable. Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh was well-aware of the reality of the Pennsylvania Avenue corridor, including what was supposed to be a temporary homeless shelter she put at the former Pinderhughes school building. The shelter first opened 2 ½ years ago when Pugh was looking for somewhere to put the “tent city” people who had began to populate the lawn in front of City Hall. There were about 30 tents in which homeless people were living.
Two and a half years later, it is my understanding that an East Baltimore homeless shelter was condemned this week and the people living there have been sent to 1200 N. Fremont.
It should be noted that then-Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake attempted to make Pinderhughes a homeless shelter about 3 ½ years ago. A hearing was held at the Baltimore City Department of Housing and it was concluded that the community, including the merchants on Pennsylvania Avenue and the merchants inside the Avenue Market, totally rejected a homeless shelter.
So, in my estimation, Pugh bullied this shelter onto the community simply because she was embarrassed that the homeless set up tents at City Hall or maybe she was too distracted counting hundreds of thousands of dollars from “Healthy Holly” sales (not bad at all for a rookie author).
In the last 2 days, we have seen an increase of people going into the shelter at 1200 N. Fremont. Our sources stated on Monday that a homeless shelter in East Baltimore had been condemned and the City was scrambling to find a place for them to sleep.
The point is that Baltimore’s elected officials, including City Councilman John Bullock (part of Sandtown is in his district) and City Counciman Leon Pinkett (the other part of Sandtown is in his district), have still not done anything to bring relief to the residents of Sandtown and neighboring Upton – including the wide-open drug dealing at Penn-North, the international media epicenter of “Freddie Gray”.
I saw them on TV, along with Councilman Eric Costello, promoting a gateway project for Pennsylvania Avenue. That’s all well and dandy, but we have drugs being sold like their going out of style. This is four years past “Freddie Gray” and yet nothing has been done.
What we know is that these fires will continue to happen unless we, as a city, identify the issues involved: drugs, vacants, and a burgeoning population of homeless people – much like the homeless situation in Portland, Oregon.
While Baltimore has a growing homeless demographic, it cannot touch Portland’s issues with homelessness. However, maybe it can consider Portland’s solutions, including Central City Concern, which has been “[p]roviding comprehensive solutions to ending homelessness and achieving self-sufficiency … in Portland, Ore. since 1979.”
According to its website, “Central City Concern meets its mission through innovative outcome-based strategies which support personal and community transformation.
During a business trip to Portland not too long ago, I got an opportunity to see both the problem and the solution first-hand. All I am saying is that Baltimore has a serious homeless problem that is only going to worsen unless it is addressed head-on. And while the mainstream media is targeting “squeegee kids” for news stories, it’s about time it starts targeting the transient addicts who are wreaking havoc in neighborhoods already under siege from the crack epidemic of the 80s.
Generations later, East and West Baltimore are war zones for drugs. Today, prescription drugs, including Percocets, have added to the mix of drugs popular in Baltimore, particularly among black youth. A perfect reminder is the CVS at Penn-North being torched in the Spring of 2015.
Four years later, we have white homeless addicts stumbling through the streets and alleys of Baltimore like never before. I have never seen anything like this in my life. Many of these homeless addicts, I might mention, are white and are not from Sandtown, which is 97% African American. All of the dealers, no doubt, are African American. Any blind man can see that increased addiction – now escalating because of Fentanyl, a ton of vacants, a burgeoning homeless population, and greedy dealers … all make a recipe for disaster.
Cops are taxed. Emergency personnel are definitely taxed, especially the firefighters who have to go on the roofs of these burning vacants and the paramedics who have to dish out more Narcan than they have room to store. They deserve a medal. And the poor neighbors are left terrorized and are now hostages in their own homes.
Yet, there is still no 9-1-1 heard by our leaders.
I’ll say it again: This would not be happening in Guilford! So, why is it happening in Sandtown? Surely, you can’t blame the tax-paying citizens who are the majority here, can you? Sure, we’ve got miscreants. But, not all of us break law. So, why can’t our elected leaders find a viable solution for such an ugly problem like open-air drug markets? Ignoring it will not make it go away. All of the press clippings in the world cannot distract from the reality in Sandtown, one that is still unaddressed and getting worse by the day.
I pray Ex-Officio Mayor Bernard Young can help, please! Amen.
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