Demolishing Annie B. Rose would harm senior residents

Demolishing Annie B. Rose would harm senior residents

To the editor: 

I have proudly served as the social worker at the Annie B. Rose complex on Pendleton Street in Old Town for 26 years. Over that time, I have seen to every imaginable need of hundreds of Section 8 residents – through all manner of transitions. This included the full and recent renovation of our building, during which not a single resident was displaced. The reason for the latter is simple: Displacement is one of the most predictable metrics for precipitous decline in the elderly. 

Our residents, as well as our equally vulnerable neighbors at the contiguous Ladrey Building – now proposed for demolition – would be put at considerable and unnecessary environmental, social, emotional and physiological risk by the proposed destruction of that building. 

Winn Development has promised Ladrey residents everything short of eternal life to get them to vacate their homes, where some have lived for 20 or more years, on the promise of returning to a new, better, greener building. They have shockingly downplayed, in my opinion, the severe consequences of a 3.5-year forced relocation of these vulnerable – and misled – tenants. 

I will leave to others articulation of additional stated concerns, such as soil conditions that are dangerously ill-suited to such a massive project that’s so large it would increase the density of the current status by an astonishing 50%. It would create relentless construction dust, imperil emergency vehicle access, impede wheelchair ingress/egress and result in an inescapably sunless, claustrophobic final effect. 

As someone who has had to relocate elderly individuals from their homes, I speak to the irreversible damage to these unsuspecting residents of what would essentially be a mandatory, building-wide eviction. The association between increased mortality and forced relocation of elderly individuals, particularly those with frailties or special needs, is clear: They are two to four times more likely to die than those who are not relocated. Relocation Stress Syndrome is real and symptoms range from mild to devastating. 

We did not relocate our residents at Annie B. Rose during the recent full and impressive renovation of our building because their emotional well-being and personal safety is core to our stewardship. 

It is my hope that the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority and City Council will come to the same caring conclusion regarding the Ladrey residents and the need to renovate their building versus demolish it. This would allow its vulnerable residents to stay in their homes. They will be the ultimate beneficiaries, which policymakers of every stripe should embrace. 

-Kupenda I. Olusegun, senior services coordinator