Dec 6, 2004
A woman working in a convenience store in southern Maryland was arrested and charged with child endangerment after her young daughters were found playing in a storage unit the Friday before Thanksgiving. The woman had been evicted from her apartment on November 11th and had rented the storage unit, which was 6 by 12 feet, to keep her things. The children spent at least three nights in the unheated storage unit without running water.
The young woman, 33-year-old Felicia Dorsey, had tried to get herself and her children into a local shelter but had been turned away. In fact, the director of the shelter said they were turning away five to ten families per night. The Ministers Alliance of Charles County put up bail money for Dorsey and said that last year they had also helped six families living in storage units.
Moralists of all stripes denounced Dorsey for leaving her daughters in the storage unit. They should be asking why wages are so low that a full-time working woman can't afford a place to live these days.
Charles County, in southern Maryland where this incident happened, is one of the poorest in the state. The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment was given as $1,218 in a newspaper article. If a worker made $7.00 per hour and worked full time, he or she still would not have enough money to pay that rent – let alone anything else. And plenty of convenience store workers and food and retail workers do not make even $7.00 per hour.
In nearby Washington D.C., rent prices are even worse and the number of people on waiting lists for subsidized housing is even bigger. Even in Charles County there are 2,500 people on the waiting list. Social workers say it takes three to five years to get subsidized housing even when you are on the list.
So, people rent unheated storage sheds, live in their cars or in vacant unheated buildings.
Dorsey's children were certainly endangered – but those responsible are the companies that do not pay a living wage, and the politicians who allow this scandalous situation to continue.