Blackmon Road wash house closure draws protest

adouglas@heraldonline.com December 26, 2012 

A nonprofit shower and laundry facility at A Place For Hope on Blackmon Road just southeast of Rock Hill was locked and closed for three days over Christmas.

Upset residents of the impoverished community say the wash house was the only place they had to take a shower and some neighbors called a Charlotte-based civil rights activist on Wednesday to meet with the community.

York County Councilman Bump Roddey said he’s looking into why the wash house was closed and no resident had a key.

“It’s supposed to be there for them,” Roddey said. “When it’s not open, they have no other alternative.”

A Place For Hope’s Executive Director Mary Hoppmann says the wash house is operated by the private, nonprofit organization that sets rules and times for use of the facility.

The showers, bathroom and laundry machines are available for a small fee from about 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

The locks were changed earlier this month, Hoppmann said, because staff members found vandalism and evidence of illegal activity in the wash house.

The facility has always had limited hours and access, Hoppmann said. Some people had unauthorized copies of keys and let themselves in anytime, she said, which ended when the locks were changed.

Now staff members and one woman who has family on Blackmon Road have a key to the new wash house lock.

It’s important that a Blackmon Road resident has a key, Roddey said, because it’s convenient for them to let people in and it builds community trust.

Some residents were upset before Christmas, he said, that the wash house locks were changed and hours weren’t convenient for people who worked most of the day.

Hoppmann offered to change the hours, she said, during a recent community meeting but Blackmon Road residents said the hours were OK.

John Barnett of Charlotte’s civil rights group THUG – “True Healing Under God” – said he met with several residents Wednesday who are upset about the wash house being closed for Christmas between Monday and Wednesday.

The residents, he said, were angry because there was no formal notice from A Place For Hope staff members except for a sign on the wash house door.

While in Rock Hill, Barnett said, he also learned of other concerns on Blackmon Road and plans to help the community’s oldest resident, 92-year-old Hope Whitlock, get a new roof on her home.

A Place For Hope is named after Hope Whitlock.

Barnett said he wants to meet with Hoppmann to see what can be done to resolve concerns about the wash house and other community problems.

The wash house isn’t Blackmon Road’s only problem, Roddey said, noting years of the community’s struggle to get water and sewer service to their community.

Roddey has been an avid supporter on the York County Council to secure money for A Place For Hope through the county’s general fund budget which also supports other nonprofit groups such as the United Way.

A Place For Hope’s operation since 2001, he said, has been a “Band-Aid approach” to the community’s issues.

“But a Band-Aid is better than no Band-Aid,” he said.

Closing the wash house at Christmastime, he said, was “poor planning” but not necessarily a civil rights issue.

Collaboration between the city of Rock Hill and York County government, he said, is needed to address the bigger concerns on Blackmon Road.

Anna Douglas 803-329-4068

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