Cold wind knifed through the glass double doors, and whisked briskly through the hallway of the Clifton Terrace Apartments, stirring up the pungent smell of bacon and eggs and urine and the smoke from the fire that some children set in the basement trash pile.
The wind came to Burstelle Simmons' apartment door and whistled rudely at her, and as boldly as any intruder let itself in. She pulled her sweater tighter around her waist, folded her hands onto her lap and leaned forward as she sat to face the draft head on. And the four gas flames atop her stove began to waver.
"We don't have any hot water, either," she said Saturday with a slight shiver. "I started to go over to my friend's house in Southeast to take a bath but I figured by the time I got back here I would be cold again, anyway."
Downstairs, taped to the window on the apartment manager's office, is a sign that tries to explain her misery, but does not even come close.
It says that during the coldest winter in the history of Washington, Clifton Terrace has no heat, and that is mainly due to the face that so many residents are not paying their rent on time so that the management cannot order fuel oil far enough in advance.
It also says services will be cut back, and if delinguent rent payments continue, services could be cut out - and the Terrace, one of Washington's reborn housing complexes for low-income residents - brought back to life in 1975 after years of troubles when owned by absentee landlords - will fail once again.
Said Robert Lee, general manager of this project, which years ago was a luxury establishment high atop Cardozo Hill, "We're broke.
There is no money to take tenants to court, a legal ritual that management says has proven futile when dealing with the poor.
"There's no point in trying to evict a bad-paying tenant," complained Joan Booth, the project manager. "The judges will buy their lines every time. I just sit back and shake my head. The excuses - somebody's mother died, then, that same year, his mother dies again.
"They tell me they don't have the money for rent, so we go to court, and they drive away in a brand new car. The judges just let them go right on through," Booth said.
When former Terrace owner Sidney J. Brown was sentenced to jail in 1967, after accumulating some 1,200 code violations on the property, the 285 unit complex in the 1300 block of Clifton Street NW was taken over by the Housing Development Corporation - an antipoverty agency.
The agency got from the Department of Housing and Urban Development a rehabilitation loan and the project was renovated. Soon after, vandalism and other major financial difficulties resulted in foreclosure.
Pride, Inc., a self-help organization providing job training and business experience to young people, took over in 1974, and about 20 months later it appeared that the rebirth of Clifton Terrace - population 1,400 - was a success.
The hard-nosed business approach of Lee and Booth in dealing with low income tenants was paying off - noisy neighbors were being fined, and delinquent rent cases were taken swiftly to court.
But a year later as Mrs. Simmons said, "Nothing seemed to matter to some of these people. One lady down from me has been fined so many times because her kids skateboard and Big Wheel up and down the halls all the time."
"I understand," says Lee, who is 32 and black. "I can relate to the psychology of what is happening. A kid gets frustrated so he sets a fire in the basement or sticks a rod in the motor of a clothes dryer, but . . ."
But Lee is losing $12,000 a month in rent, alone. If everyone in the complex paid up, he would receive $47,000. It takes $55,000 to $60,000 a month to run Clifton Terrace, of which $27,000 goes for monthly fuel bills and $12,000 for salaries.
Government subsidies make up the difference in rent potential - the amount that would be collected if every one paid - and what is actually needed to keep the complex going.
"We lost $30,000 last year," says Lee. "We're out of money. We figure the only way to make this thing viable is to get the residents involved with what is happening, get them to understand how important a roof over their head is."
The last resort approach taken by Booth and Lee appeared Friday night below the sign they posted on their office window saying delinquent renters were responsible for the lack of heat.
It was a list of residents, their names, apartment number and the amount of rent they owed.
Confusion and disenchantment followed.
"Whaaaa!" exclaimed one woman, after being hauled before the sign by one of her children. "I paid my rent. Somebody gimmie a pen, scratch my name off of here."
Children saw the list and started taunting each other and there were some minor fist fights between children, neighbors say.
"I just don't have the money," one man told a reporter who came to his apartment door."I done told you that a hundred times. I ain't got it. When I get it you get it. Now I see you when I get it," he said sternly.
Lee said he realized two weeks ago that the complex would run out of heating oil. Consumption, he said, had increased due to the severity of the winter, and there was no money to order more heating oil.
Heat was cut off and on during the past two weeks until 9 Friday night - when the basement boilers went empty.
Clifton Terrace uses 1,600 gallons of heating oil a day. There were 6,000 gallons delivered by a Hess Oil Co. truck on Saturday - 16 hours after the heat went out - but that will run out within four to five days, and the situation will once again be critical.
"Altogether," Lee said, "Joan (Booth) and I have used about $9,000 of our own money since June, 1975, to keep this place going.I've put a second mortgage on my own home and I don't know what else I can do."
Meanwhile, oil tankers are being trapped in icy rivers and rough coastal waters while trying to bring more oil to the Eastern Seaboard. Even if Lee can round up enough money for his tenants to pay fuel costs, he is not sure that there will be oil to buy.
At some apartments that appeared on the list, neighbors say the occupants have not been seen in months.
"All of em," said one man, waving toward the numbered apartment doors opposite his - all those 500's over on that side. Split. Ducked out long time ago."
"I'd been thinking about putting up a list for some time," Booth said. "I did a lot of soul-searching about it. Trying to determine if it was fair. If dissension develops, I don't care. We want this to be a quality establishment. Hard-line tactics are necessary."
"We're hoping for peer pressure," Lee said.
"It's not fair," says Mrs. Simmons. "I pay my rent, my kids behave. Why should I suffer because of what a few others do?"