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Displaced Residents Along 26th Street Allowed Back Into Homes After Collapse

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Home sweet home. People displaced by the 26th Street collapse more than a month ago are now allowed to return. Workers built a stabilizing wall and the power is now back on.

Rochelle Ritchie has reaction from homeowners.

It has been a long and stressful six weeks for people who live along "Pastel Row." One homeowner WJZ spoke with says it's a relief to finally sleep in his own bed.

For the first time since April 30, 75-year-old Jim Zitzer is back in his home to stay after the street in front of his house came crashing down onto the train tracks below.

"My wife and I hadn't parked on that side of the street in two years because we knew it was going to happen," he said.

Zitzer, his wife and their three cats have been living out of suitcases at a hotel 20 minutes away in Hunt Valley.

"Six weeks is a long time. We packed up everything, took it up there, had to bring it all back again," said Zitzer.

The vacant home unfortunately became a crime of opportunity. Zitzer shows WJZ the air conditioning unit that was kicked out when burglars tried to get inside.

"Never had a problem. Been here 26 years. I've never had a problem with anybody breaking in," he said.

A total of 19 families were evacuated. Many of them had to carry what little they could by hand out of their homes.

"I can't describe the feeling. I wish we didn't have to do it. Those of who have businesses are just trying to get our pieces out," one man said.

While some are certainly eager to get back home, others are waiting to make sure it will be a safe return.

Eight families have already moved into their homes, while 11 others are opting to move in Saturday once radon testing is complete.

"We don't really see a danger here to be frank with you, but this is all precautionary. And as a result of the precautionary measure, we are taking every avenue we can to make sure residents feel safe," said Reggie Scriber, Baltimore Housing.

Construction is underway seven days a week--a nearly $19 million project that will last for the next six months. It's not a pretty sight out of Zitzer's front window, but he says it's good to know the street will be stronger than before.

All residents are expected to be back home by Saturday.

City leaders have not determined the exact cause of the collapse, but believe weather may have been a factor.

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