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Rally aims to help Baltimoreans remain in their homes amid pandemic-related hardships

In 2000, homeowner Sonia Eaddy was told that the rowhouse in Poppleton that her family has owned for decades was slated for demolition as part of a massive West Side redevelopment project.

In 2020, Eaddy is still living in that home on North Carlton Street and is still fighting the city’s attempts to oust her. She hasn’t given up. But neither have city officials or developers backing the $800 million Center/West project.

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“We have a court date in February,” Eaddy, 53, said Saturday in front of City Hall at a rally for the March for Housing Justice.

“They don’t care about sentimental value. They don’t care how long you and your family have lived inside a home. They’ll wipe us out as if we don’t matter. They just want to get in their with their demolition crews and knock down people’s homes. The value isn’t in our houses; it’s in the land beneath them."

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A spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Housing & Community Development couldn’t be reached immediately for comment. But in the past, officials have said the project has the potential to revitalize a blighted neighborhood.

The dilemma facing Poppleton residents was merely one of the concerns expressed by the approximately 40 neighborhood residents and community activists who gathered at the corner of North Orleans Street and North Bond Street before making a one-mile trek to City Hall. The event was organized by a loose coalition including such grassroots organizations as the People’s Power Assembly and Ujima People’s Progress Party.

Participants expressed outrage that residents who live in public housing and who have fallen behind on their rent during the COVID-19 pandemic have been threatened with eviction.

Community activist Tia Jones, 33, of Towson said several residents have received letters threatening them with eviction if they don’t pay past due housing payments.

Many evictions in Maryland have been halted through Dec. 31 by an order of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention aimed at stopping the spread of the virus causing COVID-19.

Eviction hearings in Maryland resumed Aug. 31, five months after Gov. Larry Hogan signed an executive order preventing courts from ordering evictions in some circumstances. Evictions have not been banned outright; tenants must still show up in court and prove that their inability to pay rent is a result of the pandemic.

Jones said the letters she has seen have a threatening tone but likely remain on the right side of the law because they don’t state a specific date when the evictions will be carried out.

“They’re trying to intimidate people,” she said. “A lot of people don’t know their rights. They have kids they’re trying to homeschool, and they’re afraid that they’ll be out on the street in a month.”

Demonstrators carried signs reading, “Save Public Housing. Say No to Privatization” and “No pandemic evictions.”

Baltimore’s housing authority has sold thousands of deteriorating units to private developers to fix up as part of HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration program program.

The Rev. Annie Chambers, a retired social worker who lives in the Douglass Homes in East Baltimore, organized the rally for public housing, the second in two months.

“More and more people are in trouble because of the pandemic, and more and more people are going down,” she said.

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"We have enough homeless people on the streets. We don’t need more of them. We are here to fight for public housing and for people who own homes. We’re here to say ‘No more!’ ”

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