By Stephen Janis
Special to the AFRO
Baltimore resident Webster Richardson is at wits end.
Laid off from his job as a contractor at the beginning of the pandemic, Webster has not yet collected a single unemployment check. He has since lost his apartment, and now spends his days just trying to find enough to eat.
“I have no income coming in for four months,” Richardson told the AFRO.
“I’m homeless, I can barely eat, I can’t keep clean, I’m barely living, right now.”
City Hall is grappling with a doubling of COVID-19 cases in Baltimore since the beginning of July. Recently all indoor dining and bar service was suspended in the city. (Courtesy Photo)
He said he had filled out the forms for unemployment and received notice he qualified. But since then, has yet to receive any benefits.
Desperate for help and unable to get a straight answer from the Maryland Department of Labor which administers unemployment benefits, Richardson called the councilman for his district, John Bullock. An aide there gave him a number to seek help which he says was disconnected. And since then things have only gotten worse.
“I’m living from couch to couch,” he said.
But the reality remains for him that a city already straining under the demands of the pandemic is struggling to provide services in a community that suffers from entrenched poverty, high crime rates, and a municipal work force trying to stay healthy.
And while the number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb in the city to a seven-day average of 129 per day, city agencies are strained now more than ever and residents say they are falling through the cracks.
Michael Willis was walking along Reisterstown Road on May 14h, when he was viciously attacked. His assailant stabbed him in the neck and took his wallet. Left for dead, he spent four days in an ICU at Mercy Hospital fighting for his life.
But since he was released to begin a slow road to recovery Willis faces another battle, getting a call back from the detective assigned to the case. He has called investigators in the Northwest district detective unit at least a dozen times. And thus far no one has returned his calls.
“Nothing has been addressed by the BPD in any type of attempt to alleviate my concerns for the safety of myself or my family,” Willis told the AFRO.
“It’s as if the crime never occurred.”
A police spokesman did not return a request for comment.
The state prison system too is causing concerns among residents who have relatives behind bars. Among them is Sharon McMahan, the sister of Sean Blount.
Blount, who is one of Maryland’s juvenile lifers has been in prison for 37 years for accessory to murder. In June he contracted COVID-19. So far, he has survived the virus, but his sister worries he could get sick again.
“He’s 52 years old,” she said. “I’m worried about him.”
Twice a parole board recommended release, but Governor Larry Hogan overruled the administrative body.
His sister said the denial was based upon an initial risk assessment which was eventually discarded for a new assessment that says his release is safe.
“He has a job waiting for him, he has a home plan, everything is ready,” she told the AFRO.
But now she says, she wants him home, and wants answers as to why the state is not going to release him.
“He should be out.”