Baltimore officials to relocate 24 households at Poe Homes as crews struggle to restore water access

City officials canvas apartments in Poe Homes to determine how many are still struggling with their water pressure.

At least 24 households in West Baltimore’s Poe Homes public housing have opted to relocate to temporary housing as city Department of Public Works crews labored to restore full water service Sunday. A water main break June 17 and subsequent repairs have left some families without water for nearly a week.

Although a department spokesman had said Saturday that water service had been restored, residents said Sunday they were still experiencing low water pressure with their showers and toilets, especially those in second-floor units Sunday.

Lester Davis, spokesman for Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, said the city’s housing authority has identified 175 hotel rooms and 56 additional public housing units that can serve as temporary lodging. He added that some units are in Baltimore County.

Tina Nelson, 55, who has lived in the complex for the past 13 years, said she chose to go to one of the temporary units as her second-floor home continued to have low water pressure.

She said that while other apartment complexes and community members have offered places to shower and wash clothes, it’s “kind of embarrassing” to have to walk out of the complex holding soap and items to wash with to take a shower elsewhere. And at home, “You got to boil the water … they give to you to be able to take a [hot] bath,” she said.

Officials said crumbling infrastructure was to blame for the water main break that triggered the ongoing water crisis. The nearly 300-unit complex, built around 1940, is adjacent to the former home of Edgar Allen Poe, now a museum dedicated to the famed writer.

A public works spokesman Thursday said the extent of the damage wasn’t discovered until after initial repairs were made earlier in the week.

‘It’s terrible’: Poe Homes public housing complex in West Baltimore still without water after Monday main break »

The city unsuccessfully tried to install a water main bypass Friday, officials said.

Davis said the community held a meeting Sunday morning where the city’s housing authority announced the decision to allow some residents to temporarily relocate Sunday morning.

Crews at the complex Sunday were also replacing energy-efficient, low-flow toilets with normal flow toilets after some complaints the toilets did not exert enough pressure to flush properly, Davis said. He added the the water pressure was “building every hour.”

He added there are still various resources available off-site, including places to shower and wash clothes.

“For the folks who still are without water, [it’s] still the same services. Restroom facilities are nearby. Access to showers and laundry and also fresh water, buckets of fresh water so they could flush,” he said.

Davis and Anthony Jones, director of neighborhood relations for City Council President Brandon Scott, surveyed some of the homes Sunday as city officials looked to see if the water pressure issues were centralized in one area.

As they knocked on the doors of several units, the regular sentiment among the residents surveyed was that the water pressure wasn’t enough. One woman told the two she was still lacking regular pressure in her bathroom tub, and another man approached the duo to tell him he was still seeing his water only trickle out of his faucet.

Crystal Lawson, 50, who’s lived at the complex for six years, said her water is “just trickling” and “not enough to wash dishes.”

She said she’s also moving to one of the temporary units because she still has no water pressure in the bathroom.

“I need to take a shower, and I have two grandchildren,” she said. The 2-year-old and 3-year-old live with her at the complex.

“It’s very frustrating.”

Baltimore Sun reporter Christine Condon contributed to this article.

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