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Baltimore’s Homeless and City Council React to Murder At Shelter
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March 22, 2013
By Mary Rose Madden
Less than ten days after city officials evicted people from a homeless encampment in downtown Baltimore, a homicide occurred at one of the city’s shelters.
The advocates, college students and homeless people who attended the weekly meeting of Bmore Housing For All wanted to talk about Sunday's stabbing at The Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Housing Resource Center, a homeless shelter on the Fallsway.
Lee Parker, 59, said he was there – heard the whole thing. He remembers seeing the victim stumbling up the stairs, blood coming from his mouth.
“It sounded like somebody was boxing – like blows being throwed. I guess that’s how angry this guy must have been – kept on stabbing him – must have cut him because of the knife – he was hollering, “please don’t kill me.”
Many of those at the meeting are the same folks who tried to fend off the city’s eviction of the encampment March 8th. City officials said the encampment was unsafe, while the advocates said the shelters were unsafe – citing incidents of sexual harassment, theft, physical violence…and now, they’re discussing the recent murder.
“It’s 5:30 a.m. in the morning and it’s quiet. I can hear the thing going down. I seen the guy come up the steps. I don’t know how he got up the steps. He was trying to say something – but before he could, blood came out of his mouth.”
Police identified the victim as Dana Bolden, 47, of no fixed address. They have charged Gary Burton, 50, another homeless man, with first and second degree murder.
“Some people sit on the front porch getting high…”
Soon, others were telling their stories about violence they’ve endured at various shelters and group homes. Tony Simmons scribbled down names.
“We need to file grievances.”
He wants to take the grievances to City Hall. But he and others wonder if anything will be done, whether anyone will look into their allegations.
“I know that people in the campsite were just afraid to go there or had bad experiences there.”
City Councilwoman Mary-Pat Clarke met with the people in the encampment. And she’s proposed resolutions to City Hall to deal with the encampment and the city’s 10-year plan to end homelessness called “The Journey Home.”
“We can do the same about the shelter. And we probably should.”
Clarke said the shelter is partially funded by tax-payers and the council should step up.
“It’s our jobs as elected officials to take responsibility and we should move forward to take a look at how it’s operating.”
Councilman Bill Henry has been the Chair of the Housing and Community Development Committee for a year and half. He said he might wait to see if Councilman Bill Cole, who represents the district where the shelter is located, will move on the issue. If not…
“I would have the option to hold a more issue- based hearing on shelters and what is happening in them.”
After that, Henry said, the hands of the council are tied.
“A lot of what we do is advisory and we call attention, raise consciousness. But at the end of the day the decisions are made by the administration and it’s the responsibility of the citizens as a whole to make it clear that this is the direction that they want the administration to go.”
Ian Brennan, spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said no investigation into the safety of the shelters is planned and that “one incident does not make a pattern”.
Back at the Bmore Housing for All meeting, homeless advocates are still shaken by the murder taken place at the shelter, over a cigarette, police say. I’m Mary Rose Madden reporting from Baltimore for 88-1, WYPR.
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