East Capital Dwellings is one of the worst public housing properties in the city, if not the worst. The conditions there, like the conditions in much of the city's public housing, create criminals. Recently a grandmother was killed there as she tried to protect the lives of innocent children. Her only crime was being poor and living at East Capital Dwellings.
Some people blame the mayor for this deplorable situation, but the mayor is not the one in charge of the District's public housing. David I. Gilmore, the housing authority's receiver, is, and just a month ago he told me East Capitol Dwellings was a beautiful and safe place to live.
At that time a mother had refused to move to East Capitol Dwellings because illegal activities were going on there in broad daylight. This is a development that looks as though it belongs in the Third World, where children are accustomed to the sound of gunshots and the anticipation of murder. Gilmore, however, maintained that he would not send a mother and her children to live at East Capitol Dwellings if he did not think it was safe.
Gilmore oversees more than 60 public housing developments in the District, but he has done little to make them safe places to live. He requested only 142 Housing Authority police officers for all 60 developments. The smallest housing developments needs at least four officers, the medium-sized developments need six and the biggest developments, such as East Capitol Dwellings, need eight to 10.
Gilmore should have done a lot more to make public housing safe. He should have:
Asked for drug and alcohol treatment and counseling services on each troubled property and made attendance at such programs mandatory for proven addicts who wanted to remain on the property.
Ensured that each property had access to a trade or vocational school and made financial assistance available to tenants. Again, attendance by healthy adults should have been made mandatory.
Made it mandatory for parents or guardians to keep young children off the streets late at night and in school during school hours.
Forced loud groups of people -- either in homes or on the street -- to disperse or be arrested.
Held anyone caught destroying property liable for making or paying for repairs.
Forced the people responsible for a house's being raided to leave the premises if found guilty in court. If a second offense occurred on a particular property, he should have evicted the entire household after giving its members ample time to vacate the premises.
Monitored strangers and people on the streets or in the homes who continuously attract unsavory characters. He should have dealt with them accordingly if they were found to be breaking the law.
If Gilmore adopts even some of these suggestions, he just might save the life of the next grandmother.
-- Sandra Seegars
is a community activist in Ward 8.