Turnout low for city-run jobs program 1st-day response disappointing


Few Baltimore public housing residents signed up yesterday for a city-run jobs program, disappointing officials who had expected a flood of applications.

The first day of registration for the Step Up program opened at 10 a.m. yesterday at seven locations -- McCulloh Homes, Hollander Ridge, Somerset Homes, Cherry Hill Homes, O'Donnell Heights and Oswego Mall housing complexes and at a Housing Authority of Baltimore City office at 1501 St. Paul St.

At Somerset Homes in East Baltimore, only 10 applications had been filed by 11 a.m., and at McCulloh Homes in West Baltimore, there were no applicants in the management office at noon.

"I am surprised at the turnout," said Pat Robinson, manager at Somerset Homes. "When they announced the program [last week], the residents were talking like they would come out in droves."

The total number of applications received yesterday was not available, said Zack Germroth, spokesman for the Housing Authority, who added that the turnout was low at all locations.

By 2 p.m., housing officials -- wearing red and white Step Up T-shirts and baseball caps -- had closed registration as scheduled. Registration continues through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the same locations.

Officials had expected to be flooded with applications from the 17,000 adults who live in public housing for the 50 jobs that will pay residents to learn construction trades.

The application deadline is Nov. 15, and officials plan another registration next week at a central location.

Mr. Germroth said many tenants "did not read their mail" on Step Up. He said 6,000 letters explaining the program had been mailed last week from the authority's central office. About 12,000 letters are due to be mailed this week, he added.

The Step Up program will be funded with a $756,000 federal resident-initiative grant, said Daniel P. Henson III, the authority's executive director.

The money will be used to form HAB Co., the authority's own construction company, to hire and train residents to rehabilitate dilapidated city-owned housing.

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