Homeless Shelter Dangerous Machines

Letter to the Editor (East County Times, 4/21/2011)

I have resided in Eastside Family Shelter, next to Franklin Square Hospital, since July, 2009. On Wednesday, Feb. 9, I left several phone messages at the office of the new Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz about a number of conditions in the shelter, especially the recurring failure of the toilet paper and paper towel supply in the bathrooms. Next morning, I believe, I observed maintenance workers within the shelter and thought the new County Executive was responding to my concerns, but they didn’t fix everything. I started an email draft history of the problems and left another frustrated phone message with Kamenetz’ office.

About April 1, 2 or 3, electric powered forced hot air hand dryers were installed in all bathrooms in Eastside Shelter, and paper towels were no longer supplied to the dispensers or on the sink counters.

The noise of these electric dryers alone is a hazard to our hearing with constant use. It is impossible to hold a conversation in the room while they are operating. and they wake people sleeping nearby on hall floor mats. One of the two installed in the south women’s bathroom has ceased to operate already; the other hurts my ears even when I’m in a stall at the other end of the room. Both dryers in this bathroom are in a corner, right next to a baby changing station.

The main women’s bathroom (north, nearer the Bubble office) now has two electric dryers mounted side by side at the same height — for adult use — on the wall of the Entrance/Exit passage. These dryers also hamper conversation in the main toilet/sink area and even the showers. I have twice accidentally set off these dryers in passing through this often-crowded entrance. I raised my knee under one dryer to test the activation height — it’s about the height of a toddler’s head! I heard the other day that a child’s hand had been burnt by a hot-air dryer.

Important among us residents’ previous uses of paper towels was wiping up water from the sink counters, because the sinks in the main women’s bathroom are poorly designed, and they also leak. Now there is an excuse for hairdoers to leave strands or goop on the sinks, unless they use toilet paper, which is doled out sparingly by staff. The water drips onto the floor and causes another mess, which we have to use heavy wet-mops to clean up.

Electrocution hazard! If a mop bucket spills (as has happened fairly frequently) or if the puddle which always leaks from the handicapped shower (during the entire time of my residence) extends even farther than its usual middle of the main use area, and if the dryers are not connected into GFCI as the socket outlets are, electricity could arc from the powerful dryer heater motors. I warned shelter manager Charmaine Short about this a few days ago.

On Wednesday, April 6 at our morning meeting, CAN staffer April Stevens jocularly referred to “the new toy in the bathrooms,” but proceeded to warn us that “it can scald your skin”— so parents must assist children in using the dryers, and if staff observe any children using the dryers by themselves, “it’s gonna be a write-up!” This is but another outrageous example of how CAN foists all their responsibility to provide a clean and safe living environment onto us homeless residents! I hope I’m not too late.

Janet Granofsky, Rosedale

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