Huddled around heaters rTC Elderly await heat in public housing

Elderly residents of a Glen Burnie public housing building are resorting to unusual means to warm their apartments either until a warm spell hits or Oct. 15, the date the county has chosen to start the furnace.

"I've been putting the oven on to keep warm," said a woman who lives at Glen Square.


Even so, she said, the thermostat in her apartment registered 62 degrees Friday morning, and she put on long johns. Outdoors, the temperature dipped overnight to 37 degrees.

Residents, who declined to identify themselves, gathered Friday morning in the lobby of Glen Square to get their mail and to discuss conditions in their apartments.


One woman said she stays bundled in sweaters. An operation scheduled in a few weeks will be canceled if she has even a cold. The chill, she said, exacerbates the aches and pains of many senior citizens there.

While there isn't a single temperature that is ideal for everyone, "if you have to turn on the oven to be warm, it's the wrong temperature," said Dr. Larry Linder, an emergency room physician at North Arundel Hospital.

Ovens, space heaters and the like are inefficient and pose safety risks, he said, especially for elderly people.

The 127 apartments in the decade-old public housing building are leased only to the elderly or disabled. The five-story brick building is at the corner of Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard and Crain Highway.

One resident said she is using a space heater, is never without a sweater and covers herself even when sitting in a chair.

One couple brought an 85-year-old sickly parent an electric space heater last week because they considered it less of a safety hazard than letting her use the electric stove for warmth.

"We're cold," said one woman, wearing two sweaters Friday morning though she had no intention of venturing outside. She slept in a heavy housecoat Thursday night and has put an extra blanket on her bed.

She said she dreads bathing because of the chill, and uses the heat lamp to warm the room.


"I just bundle myself up. I keep thinking, 'How many more days do I have to go through this?' " she said.

The answer is about two more weeks.

The heat will go on Oct. 15, said Lee Brown, maintenance supervisor for the Anne Arundel County Housing Authority.

There is nothing magic about Oct. 15. County code says average residential room temperatures should be at least 70 degrees, except for the bedroom, where the heat should go on once the thermostat dips to 60 degrees, said Evelyn Stein, a Health Department spokesman.

However, she said, the department has not received any heating complaints in recent days, and the only way it has to monitor compliance is through complaints.

That some residents were not cold and others have left their windows open points out a problem with Glen Square.


The building operates on an all-or-nothing, single gas-fired system. The radiant heat is either on or off for all tenants. Once it is on, it takes four or five days to turn it off.

If the heat is turned on too early in the fall, it would stay on during warm spells, which could send indoor temperatures into the high 80s or 90s if the outdoor daytime temperature is in the 70s, Mr. Brown said.

Housing officials chose Oct. 15 -- approximately the same date each year -- because they are certain the weather has changed sufficiently that firing up the boilers will not overheat residents, Mr. Brown said.

Mr. Brown said he tried to accommodate those who felt a chill last week. Because of complaints, blowers have been shut off in the community room while residents eat lunch.