A settlement has been reached in the massive "sex-for-repairs" lawsuit filed by women living in public housing in Baltimore City.
Nineteen women say they were forced to give in to the demands of maintenance men, or problems in their homes would not be fixed.
The Housing Authority of Baltimore City has now agreed to settle the case out of court.
There is no word on how much those women will receive in the settlement, but an advocate for them said it will be "life-changing.”
“What I hear from them is that they're glad that finally something is being done,” said Perry Hopkins, from the group Communities United. “It's going to give those folks a chance to have a new start in a new healthy and safe environment. But more importantly all those ladies are talking about making a way for their kids.”
An attorney for the 19 plaintiffs, and a spokeswoman for the Housing Authority both released the same statement -- which reads: “The parties have agreed to a settlement in principle subject to approval by HUD and the court.”
They both said that's all they could say at this time.
Hopkins has been working with the 19 plaintiffs and, he says, many other women who had similar experiences in Baltimore City public housing.
“These gentlemen, the perpetrators, were allowed to flourish in this environment to the point where they created a culture of it. There no telling how many people have been affected,” he said.
After the scandal broke late last year, there were calls for the head of the housing authority, Paul Graziano, to resign.
That has not happened, but Hopkins says the fact that the authority agreed to the settlement means it is taking some responsibility for what happened to the women.
“What it means is they realized that there was an unsafe and unlivable condition going on. They realized that residents were being victimized by their employees,” Hopkins said.
The criminal investigation into the sex-for-repairs allegations by the Baltimore City State's Attorney's office is still active.
And this was a class-action lawsuit; so there will be more time for more women to join it, even though there is now an agreement between the Housing Authority and the current plaintiffs.
The next step will be for a federal judge and the federal housing department to review the settlement; they would also have to agree to it.