For two decades, Baltimore’s Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood was the target of multimillion-dollar revitalization efforts, according to the Baltimore Sun.
This included a spirited attempt by Habitat for Humanity to refurbish or rebuild the area’s row houses, which they call “architecturally beautiful” but which had fallen into disrepair.
It’s not clear what impact those initiatives had on addressing a more sinister problem that had plagued the structures: they have been the subject of millions of dollars’ worth of lead paint settlements.
Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old black man who died in police custody, was born into Sandtown’s literally toxic ghetto, according to a lawsuit he and his two sisters filed in 2008. The Sun’s Jean Marbella writes that the family claimed damaging lead levels in their blood as children led to “multiple educational, behavioral and medical problems.” They settled in 2010 for an undisclosed sum.
Whether because of lead or even more intractable structural problems, Sandtown has been unable to shake the kinds of economic woes prevalent in other predominantly African-American inner city neighborhoods.
Here are the terrifying facts about Sandtown, according to U.S. Census tract data.
— Just 42 percent of residents are employed, compared to the national average of 59 percent.
— Thirty-three percent of residential properties are vacant or abandoned.
— Just 54 percent of its residents are even in the labor force, even though 77 percent of residents are between 20 and 64 years old.
— Just 4.5 percent of the neighborhood has a Bachelor’s degree.
Here ‘s a chart comparing Sandtown with the rest of the U.S.:
Sandtown is also home to the highest number of residents incarcerated in all of Maryland. It costs the state $17 million each year to house the more than 450 inmates, according to the Justice Policy Institute and the Prison Policy Initiative. The groups say Maryland taxpayers are spending $288 million a year to incarcerate people from the city, including $47 million for inmates from West Baltimore alone.
As of 2012, the incidence of children aged 0-6 with elevated blood-lead levels in Sandtown was still at 7.4 percent in 2012, the groups say.
“It’s critical that we have this information so policy-makers and others can have a more informed discussion, and hopefully a data-driven discussion, about how they spend resources and implement policies,” Marc Schindler, executive director of the Justice Policy Institute, told the Sun in February.
This, at least as much as rehabbing homes, will be needed to address Sandtown’s imbalances.