Why demolishing public housing cuts to the bone

Have any of you all ever been evicted? Ever lost a home for any reason? Even if it’s an old house in the middle of the city that could probably use a lot of time and money that you don’t have, it’s still home.

I spent a couple of years on my old blog talking and posting pictures of my old house and my old neighborhood in Milwaukee. People didn’t understand why I stayed–people thought that it must be depressing to be so poor and living in such a poor area. Well fuck yeah, there were plenty of depressing times, but it wasn’t the fault of my neighbors or my house.

People who don’t live in communities don’t quite get how communities work. Communities aren’t all about the suburban folks having a cocktail party (or whatever it is y’all suburban folks do), or some tv drama about desperate white women behind picket fences. I learned all I needed to know about how a community succeeds by living, tumbled down and broke, right alongside people who were careful of me, then accepting of me, and then my friends. Community meant that Ashanti could go to the corner store and the couple who ran the store, who had lived in a flat above that store for 30 years, knew her name and her favorite candy. Community meant that when Kat was wild and running the streets, the prostitutes working the avenue would look out for her and make sure she got home safe. Community meant that if Yolanda next door was cooking rice and beans or making sandwiches or a pitcher of koolaid, she shared with my kids. It meant that when my electricity got cut off I knew I could run an extension cord between my house and Eddie’s house so that I could at least have a lamp on and watch television.

Here’s community: one morning Yolanda came running to my house to let me know that the city tow truck was outside getting ready to tow my car for unpaid tickets. I wasn’t dressed yet so I threw her my car keys and she ran out to the street, unlocked the car door, and jumped inside. Cuz see, the tow truck couldn’t tow my car as long as there was somebody in there. And by the time I was dressed and outside Yolanda had argued so strenuously with the tow truck driver that he agreed to leave without my car.

This is poor people looking out for each other. I was often the only one on the block with my phone turned on, so I was the person who made and accepted phone calls for my neighbors. If I heard Mattie and her boyfriend’s argument starting to get out of hand, I could stick my head out the window and let her know I’d call 911 if she needed me to. Often that was enough to get the boyfriend to cool it.

This is a community of poor people who struggle and look out for each other. Lot of times folks don’t understand exactly how that works. You watch the news and you think people in inner cities are too busy shooting guns and smoking crack to actually have friends and family that they love. You think poor means stratified, disconnected, a world of distrust and violence. If you think it’s that simple then you’re wrong.

When my disability got bad enough that for a couple of years I rarely left my house, my neighbors would stop by on their way to the store to see if I needed anything. When I got my scooter and became mobile again, people I hadn’t seen in years cried and kissed me on the cheek and hugged me because they were so pleased for me.

Poor people, y’all. Poor brown and black people living in a city that is famous for violence and racial segregation.

And I have a good friend who grew up in the projects in Chicago, the famous Harold Ickes (the “Ickes) projects, who remembers her childhood with great fondness. Her grandma still lives there to this day. And when the Chicago Housing Authority made plans to demolish the Chicago projects, there was enormous outcry from the residents, even as the wealthy salivated at the prospect of getting their paws on all that prime real estate. I went to protests and community actions trying to keep the projects from being torn down. And what happened to the residents of the projects that were demolished? Gone to the suburbs, cut off from each other, torn apart. Lost to the communities that had sustained them.

Talk about ghettos and slums and the inner city all you want. Let the media lie to you and tell you that poor people and people of color can’t work together, can’t create vibrant life together. Live in ignorance. But I tell you, if all that is true, then why are the scattered, displaced residents of New Orleans so desperate to come home? Why the outcry, the grief, at the loss of the New Orleans public housing?

This is why: because people who are poor need each other. We need each other because we know exactly how it feels to be down to your last $10 and it’s only the middle of the month. We need each other because we speak each other’s language. We need to be around people like us so that we maintain our humanity and our hope.

And poor people have a right to housing. Housing is a human right, like enough food and water and safety from violence. And if the bad men who want to finish the job of destroying New Orleans succeed in tearing it down and rebuilding it in their own image, there is nothing to stop them from doing the same thing in any poor neighborhood in the country.

Housing is a right. I deserve it, and so do you. And so do the people of New Orleans.

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45 comments for “Why demolishing public housing cuts to the bone

  1. kate
    December 15, 2007 at 2:12 am

    Exactly Kactus!

    Community is when my daughter’s were running wild, I could call the right people who would know to look out for her. I could talk to the people at different corner stores to know who had seen her.

    Community is the women I knew who lived in the projects who would get together after every foodstamp day (once every two weeks), go shopping and then cook like crazy and divy up the spoils amongst eachother, saving on the food bill by pooling their resources, saving on labor by cooking together and also saving on cab money by having the person with the car do the driving.

    Community is living in the same spot for years, where the cops, the fireman, the neighbors all know you, all know your kids, “Hey is that your boy stopped in today, boy is he big now! Did I see him working down at….?”

    Community is when my daughter stole at the corner store and was banned there, she was forgiven after awhile because the owner knew the family and knew she was going through a phase and I was dealing with it.

    Community is when I had to go to the hospital, people in the neighborhood offered to take the kids in their homes without even being asked.

    I love living in the city, I love my ratty old victorian, sure I want for more but right now this is what I have.

    Frankly, I find poor whites to be the most vicious to eachother and to be more prone to be loners, not be unable to understand community very well; to have been sucked into self shaming and wanting to get as far from their own poverty, even if that means to alienate themselves or take from the very hand that may feed them. I am white by the way and no, not all white folks are like that, but enough to keep white people generally alienated and self destructive when they can least afford it. The very traits ironically foisted on ‘other’ (non-white) people by the way.

  2. December 15, 2007 at 2:41 am

    Thank you, kactus. I’ve never lived in a community like that. The closest I’ve come to it was “substandard” military housing in Washington state. Military and poor folks, I suppose we do look out for one another.


  3. December 15, 2007 at 3:55 am

    I live in that kind of community right now. We share bus change and rides to the store, and information about how to fight whatever government agency is currently trying to screw us over or who has funds available to help out. My Kid is looked out for by neighbors and grocery clerks and unlike suburban kids- I can trust the kid with a much larger range away from the house.

  4. MizDarwin
    December 15, 2007 at 9:07 am

    What a moving post. I’m curious–what makes the difference between the kind of communities you’re writing about, Kactus, and the kinds where parents are afraid to let kids play outside? Why does one poor neighborhood turn into the first, and another into the other?

  5. December 15, 2007 at 9:28 am

    *smoochiez!* at your blog, you made it seem like you were saying nothing. this is hardly nothing!

  6. December 15, 2007 at 9:31 am

    BTW, MizDarwin, a great author on just that topic is Eli Anderson, who has spent nearly 30 years studying Philly’s neighborhoods. He doesn’t paint a completely rosey picture of course, but he takes a stab at explaining why there are differences. Of course, the classic is All Our Kin.

  7. December 15, 2007 at 9:44 am

    One night when my ex-boyfriend walked out of the house after a breakup, I ran after him, and couldn’t find him, and kinda wandered around pathetically, until I fetched up at our local corner store. Where Joaquin, the guy who owned the corner store, made me sit down on a chair and asked me if I was okay and did I need him to call the police or anything (which was a valid question, because seriously, when you see a girl from your ‘hood wander in crying, with her hair all messed up and her clothing askew, I bet the worst scenario is flashing through your mind.) I told him, no, nothing like that, my boyfriend had just left me. He gave me a hug and let me hang out til I felt a little better, and gave me some bottled water. That’s what I think of when I think of a place where people know you and hang together. Joaquin was awesome. Everybody deserves a Joaquin.

  8. MizDarwin
    December 15, 2007 at 10:06 am

    Bitch I Lab, thanks for the reference! Another book on the “to read” pile!

  9. December 15, 2007 at 11:07 am

    Beautiful post. Thank you.

  10. Nicole
    December 15, 2007 at 11:36 am

    Awesome story. Its sad that this isn’t all communities.

    I grew up in one of those “suburban folks” neighborhoods. It was an older neighborhood, so it wasn’t all white picket fences and houses that look the same. We used to have the same sense of community you are talking about here. The neighbors would watch after my brother and I. If we forgot our house keys they’d let us hang out and watch TV until my dad got home. If you did something bad, you knew your parents would here. There was a small corner drugstore and grocery store where they knew us and our families. Now with a CVS, Starbucks, and Walmart on every corner thats gone.

    Somehow we lost it along the way.

  11. bluish
    December 15, 2007 at 2:01 pm

    Thank you for this.

    As a former resident of N.O., I think the hardest thing for people to understand was what “community” meant – and why it was more important than money for most people. It’s hard for those in the “the-one-who-dies-with-the-most-money-wins” crowd to understand, but there are actually people who value community more than square footage. The projects in New Orleans were dangerous, broken-down, deeply sad places, but the people who lived there were not. They were families and neighbors and old folks doing the best they could, knowing that no one was on their side but each other. They make it home, and now home is being taken away with no thought of what comes next. And they have to live somewhere.

    Yeah, it’d be great if the country took this opportunity to rebuild New Orleans public housing in a beautiful way – preserve the community, upgrade the facilities and the conditions. But that’s not what (most of) the developers want. They want to tear down the projects with no promises that more will be built. As if the endemic poverty was caused by the old brick buildings, and not the other way around. Tear down the houses, and the poverty still remains. But the community, well, that can be destroyed. And without community, at least the poor people will have no choice but to leave or die. And the developers really don’t care which.

  12. December 15, 2007 at 2:18 pm

    Yes, bluish. And another thing I was thinking of is how powerful community is, and why it can be a threat to those “in power” who want to keep and build on that power. It’s not just square footage and money that the rich want–it’s to keep people in poverty scattered and unable to organize together.

    MsDarwin asked the question earlier upthread:

    I’m curious–what makes the difference between the kind of communities you’re writing about, Kactus, and the kinds where parents are afraid to let kids play outside? Why does one poor neighborhood turn into the first, and another into the other?

    My experience is that often those kinds of neighborhoods overlap. There were times in my old neighborhood when I wouldn’t let my kids play outside–when there was police activity, or fighting, or holidays that involved a lot of alcohol, like July 4. I mean, I would let them outside, but make sure they stayed close to the house, and came in early. So every community has its bad residents and transient element. It’s what those with an investment in their community and their neighbors do in response that matters.

    And even in the worst, I mean worst neighborhoods, there are people who hope and work together. What makes a neighborhood lose its sense of community is when it loses its sense of hope and continuity and history.

    I’m a big believer in not just affordable rent, but programs that make home-owning accessible for more people in poverty. The more investment people have in their homes, the more they are invested in their communities. But you can still create community without that.

  13. December 15, 2007 at 4:17 pm

    Oh kactus, you made me cry a little this morning when I read this at work. I couch-crashed in a broke-ass, crack neighborhood when I was pregnant and homeless and the lady downstairs took care of me like this. I miss her and I miss that community.

    When I moved to the other side of town I picked out a house that I thought would be like that community, but after I moved in I found out that nobody goes outside unless it’s to manicure their lawns, and when we hang out on the front porch in the summer my rich neighbors look at us like we’re trash. As it turns out the neighborhood association (warning: never live anywhere with a fucking snotty-ass neighborhood association) is trying to find people like us to live here, i.e. low-income families that plan to stick around, but apparently they don’t like it when the families actually look and act like we do.

  14. December 15, 2007 at 4:19 pm

    but apparently they don’t like it when the families actually look and act like we do.

    Which makes me wonder how this mixed-income housing ordeal will actually play out. Sounds like an even fancier way of preparing for future gentrification on top of the open gentrification the developers are asking for.

  15. ilyka
    December 15, 2007 at 4:20 pm

    Kactus, this is beautiful. I am so glad you are here posting, you just don’t even know.

  16. kate
    December 15, 2007 at 4:32 pm

    When Cabrini Green was knocked down in Chicago a few years back, a ‘mixed development’ was supposed to come in, allowing former Cabrini residents apply for HUD vouchers, but they also had to go through various screenings and essential ‘neighborhood living skills’ (I kid you not) before being considered viable applicants.

    I was looking a couple of months ago online about this wondering how this development, that I think should be substantially up now, is going. No word.

    Its difficult to keep up on something when the press or other information outlets just simply ignore any follow-up. “Nothing to see here, move on, move on.”

    Anyone have any information on the Cabrini Green replacement/redevelopment project in Chicago?

  17. Rosehiptea
    December 15, 2007 at 4:45 pm

    This is a really important point to make when the press likes to throw around the words “inner city” meaning “desperate place full of people of color who have nothing.” I don’t think people want to believe that poor people make community. They want to believe they spend all their time hating their lives and wishing they were like the people in the suburbs.

  18. December 15, 2007 at 5:03 pm

    According to Wikipedia, Cabrini Green has gone from 15,000 to 5,000 in population. I know from going past there fairly regularly over the years that they’re basically gone (I remember driving past the beginning demolition during a school trip way back when, and in later years, some friends used to cop there) and that new buildings are going up in their places. I think the row houses are still there.

    Wiki sez: “New housing built on the 70-acre Cabrini-Green site will include 30% public-housing replacement homes and 20% “workforce affordable” housing, while many adjacent developments (almost all targeted at luxury buyers) include 20% affordable housing, half targeted as public-housing replacement, with a goal of 505 replacement units built off-site.”

    And, “The Plan for Transformation’s relocation process was the subject of a lawsuit, Wallace v. Chicago Housing Authority, which alleged that many residents were hastily forced into substandard, “temporary” housing in other slums, did not receive promised social services during or after the move, and were often denied the promised opportunity to return to the redeveloped sites.”

    I know a lot of displaced people moved into Indiana, namely Gary, and a lot of those people are now moving more south into Indiana like where I live (Lafayette, Kokomo, Indianapolis). Lots of factory jobs down here and comparably more affordable and safer housing. Unfortunately, it’s also a more openly racist area of the country.

  19. December 15, 2007 at 5:35 pm

    Seattle is doing the same mixed use thing for old public housing. I’ve fought with the Seattle Housing Authority recently. It seems that in it’s push to be less dependant on federal funds (by selling market value housing in mixed use developments) they have forgotten that their mission is to help poor families get affordable housing. At the same time, rents are skyrocketing because of condo conversions- so we’re losing both public housing units and competitive market units. Poor people are getting pushed further and further into the suburbs and away from jobs and resources and the natural support networks that poor people create.

  20. Bitter Scribe
    December 15, 2007 at 6:50 pm

    There are some people who create this dynamic, irrespective of the neighborhood. They are among the things that make life worth living.

    I live on a solidly middle-class street of condos. The lady downstairs is one of the warmest human beings I’ve ever known. She is a chronic asthmatic who must take oxygen tanks with her when she ventures outside and can’t walk more than a couple of hundred feet; climing stairs is a distant dream.

    If I or about 95% of the people I know had that condition, we would do nothing but sit around feeling sorry for ourselves. But Suzy is always doing for other people. She’s out finding someone a job, collecting furniture and household goods for a woman and three kids who just landed in a bare room, giving a troubled teen rides to and from school, and much more.

    I help her out in minor ways, like giving her a ride to the train station to retrive the car her husband drove to catch the 5:30 AM into the city, or picking up stuff from the supermarket. It’s a way (a very minor one) of giving to her what she gives to others.

    You could drop someone like Suzy in the meanest ghetto, Beverly Hills, or anywhere in between, and she would have the same effect on people. She was born with community spirit.

  21. December 15, 2007 at 6:52 pm

    So true! Apart from the small, rural town I live in now, the only times I’ve ever known my neighbors have been in poor neighborhoods.

  22. December 15, 2007 at 7:17 pm

    ive lived in suburbs, poor urban neighborhoods, and now in a poor rural community, my boyfriend is from the wealthiest suburb in the state. the differeces in the way people interect with each other are amazing. in his wealthy suburb people didnt just ignore each other, they had such a huge sense of entitlement that you feared crossing any street in the downtown area, that you would be run down by a gigantic brand new suv. most people didnt even look at each other on the street, but if they did, it wasnt to make eye contact, but to judge. in the suburb i lived in, pretty average with a mix between middle class and the upper end of working class, there wasnt the meanness and entitlement but people ignored you, my family lived in that house for 5 years and never once had any interaction with our neighbors.

    my experience in my poor urban neighborhoods and in my current poor rural community are lightyears different from my experience in the ‘burbs. the urban neighborhoods were made up of people from all different racial and ethnic backgrounds and my rural community is made up of the type of white people that outsiders call “white trash.” everyone talks to you, waiting in line at stores or the gas station you end up talking with everyone around you. and im not sure if its just a neighborhood thing so much as a class thing, as last night i ventured to the suburbs to go to a grocery store, as vegetarian organic foods are near non existant where i live. the only person who struck up a conversation with me was a woman who was obviously incredibly poor, and we talked about the price disparity between grocery stores and just general small talk, but it was so nice. the fucking cashier didnt even say hello to me. the coldest people i have ever met are the wealthy and those who are not wealthy but try their best to fake it. the kindest have been the homeless. my best friend grew up in terrible poverty, going days without meals, never saw a dentist til she was twenty and had to have a tooth pulled because it had rotted away, she doesnt get christmas or birthday presents from her family because they cant afford them, shes been working since she was 14 years old to help her family with money, and she would give you her last dollar and the shirt off her back if you needed it. shes amazing. i grew up eating alot of spaghetti and ramen, my mom knew just what day the second hand store put out the new donations and we would get there the minute the store opened so she could buy me the nicest clothes she could afford so my classmates wouldnt ridicule me too badly. my dad was usually on unemployment or temporary disability and sold drugs to make ends meet. my favorite thing to do is make other people happy. im not saying all wealthy people are evil, just that poverty teaches you things that are hard to explain, they teach you the value of compassion.

    i dont think i have any specific point here. i just want to applaud this post. the poor take a lot of lumps in the progressive blogosphere, people speculating why those dumb poor people vote republican blah blah blah and why they dont vote in their own best interest, and its so fucking condescending and totally untrue. poor people arent any dumber than any other group, and poor people vote their hearts just like any other group.

    kactus, i wish i had found you before, but now that you are here, i have to tell you, youre fast becoming my favorite blogger.

    i just want to add, that whenever possible support small locally owned businesses, it means your money is more likely to go to the people who need it, and then in turn that money goes back into the community. wal mart or target or whoever dont give a shit about you or your neighbors, but when your neighbors own the store, they learn your name, theyre happy to see you, and they know you had a choice, and that you chose them. i love my health food store where every time i go they tell me about a new product i might like, the african american beauty supply store where i buy the only soaps that clear up my skin and the richest lotion ever made that is run by a mother and her daughters who joke and tease like families do so you feel like youre in their home, the occult bookstore where i buy jewelery and incense and where the owner knows everything about every product they carry, and the mexican grocery that has the freshest tortillas youll ever eat, and the second hand store and the vintage jewelery store where whoever rings you up always compliments something about you. shopping independent businesses means youre voting with your money against places that by their very existence destroy communities and exploit the poor.

  23. Betsy
    December 15, 2007 at 8:40 pm

    Thank you, Kactus. This is a great post.

  24. Morganna
    December 15, 2007 at 10:29 pm

    Thanks so much for this. I just moved from a city to a small university town and oh my god do I miss my old house in the ghetto.
    Sure, we had crack dealers on the corner, but they’d tell you they saw your lost cat on blank street.
    Stuff like that is missing in this town-sure there’s community-but only for those connected to the university or those who are “townies”.
    Not so much for the scrawny white girl from the ghetto who grew up dirt poor and happy-because she had a block full of people who knew her and were her protectors.

  25. December 15, 2007 at 11:54 pm

    It’s been a long time since I lived like that. My parents and I didn’t live in public housing growing up, but we relied heavily on the people around us. When things got bad, we reached out and befriended our neighbours.

    Still, though, I never thought of it this way. I realise that I looked fondly on those times, even if I wanted my own room and cable television.

    Those aren’t the things that sustain us.

  26. Rebecca
    December 16, 2007 at 12:05 am

    This is one prejudice I am apparently never going to get over. I grew up dirt poor and I hated it. I wanted to be more than the dusty farm kid who went barefoot in the summer because my shoes had to last for several years and were for school only. I hated being on free lunches, hated having second hand clothes and school supplies that were provided by the oh-so-pious and arrogant Lady’s Auxiliary. The only reason we had a place to live was because the farm has been in the family for generations and Dad was able to make enough to cover the taxes every year, so it couldn’t be taken away, though my great aunt tried several times.My brothers and I worked like fuck to go to school and get decent jobs, to become something more than the poor relations who embarrassed our middle class relatives.

    I understand the allure of having a place to belong, a place that watched out for you and took care of you. In college I lived in low income dorm/housing and I loved it. For the first time, no one knew my family or what it was like back home. All they knew was I worked hard, always had notes for class and would stay up to the wee hours tutoring the others for free, unlike the tutors on campus. We covered for one another, took care of one another and if it came to it, kicked each other in the ass to make sure we didn’t give up.

    The thing is, as much as I loved that ‘community’ I couldn’t wait to leave, since it was too close to what I had grown up with. Having a community to watch your back is good and all, but when given half the chance, I left and never looked back. I wanted to be more than the poor college kid who scraped a living with the help of her ‘community’.

    Unfortunately, I cannot seem to shake the idea that low income housing, like small towns and other limited societies, are black holes that suck people in and rarely let them leave. I’m not saying I approve of the New Orleans housing or any other public housing being demolished without making arrangements for the people who called it home, but I do think that sometimes it is a good thing. Community aside, sometimes you have to leave and make a new trail, instead of continually trudging along the old one.

  27. kate
    December 16, 2007 at 12:09 am

    Awesome post and everyone’s comments are fantastic. Now I for one, don’t feel alone.

  28. Entomologista
    December 16, 2007 at 1:13 am

    I’m a firm believer in affordable housing, as housing is a human right. I don’t believe I’ve ever paid rent that is at or less than the recommended 30% of my income. A couple of years ago the building we were in burned down – a crappy building in a student neighborhood. And we were the only ones in the building with insurance because my mother is an insurance agent and made us get it. So we could afford a hotel, but it makes me wonder what the other people did. The government shouldn’t just provide public housing for the poor, they should also provide emergency housing – and I’m not talking about Katrina trailers. I mean a place where you can go for free until you find a new place to live if your house burns down and you can’t afford a hotel.

    My mom’s family is Milwaukee German and I have fond memories of the museum and liverwurst sandwiches.

  29. La Lubu
    December 16, 2007 at 1:29 pm

    And what happened to the residents of the projects that were demolished? Gone to the suburbs, cut off from each other, torn apart. Lost to the communities that had sustained them.

    Meanwhile, while the poor are continually lectured to about “living within their means” and “bootstraps” and shit, being dislocated to the outer regions of a city (or nearby smaller towns) means that it’s harder to access basic services—like public transportation, grocery stores, libraries, etc. It’s harder to get to work. And the rent is higher.

    That’s what drives me nuts about rantings against “urban sprawl”; how gentrification is supposedly “good” because it’s “eco-friendly”. Y’know, I don’t like the idea that prime farmland is being paved over for McMansions either, but the alternative seems to be urban displacement for poor and working-class people who can’t afford the fancy townhouses, condos, or even property taxes on their own house after the taxes skyrocket with “urban renewal”. Or rantings about “America’s addiction to oil”—how the hell else are people who can’t access affordable city living supposed to get to work? Fly?

    Thank you for this post, kactus. I live in a neighborhood like the one you describe. I worry about gentrification as there seems to be more of it south of my neighborhood. I hope that the houses here will be thought “too small” to attract the attention of yuppies, but it could still happen through “eminent domain”.

  30. kate
    December 17, 2007 at 1:49 am

    The gentrification and ‘urban renewal’ shit is basically classism in a packaged brochure. Its an excuse to clean out the po’ folks and get them farther out of sight. Interestingly, this was attempted here the town I live in during the recession of the 90’s.

    There is one block downtown in this small city where the undesirables hang, a few social services exist there, a couple of thrift shops come and go, there is a drunk tank and also a bible missionary/addiction center. Farther up the street is the police parking lot a few delapitated tenements then the homeless shelter and soup kitchen which gets a line and/or regular patrons and transients milling about every bread day, every food box day and every day at dinner time.

    The city submitted a proposal, funded in part by the Clinton era Enterprise Community programs, to gut the entire two blocks to the main drag, enclose the whole thing under some silly glass and steel structure and create a ‘walkable shopping area’. Sort of like an open air mall. Surprisingly, the usually infighting, turf warring activists and agencies got together and fought against it tooth and nail.

    It died its own death for being silly, over budget in hard times and unable to answer the question, “Where will they go?” Of course the threat that the activists put out there was that THEY might go in YOUR neighborhood if you bulldoze this one.

    It worked, again not I think because of one campaign or action, but because of simply being seen as inept and in poor judgment in a time of economic crisis in that area, mixed with some serious NIMBY.

    It seems in New Orleans, the NIMBY card can’t be played too much as the hurricane solved that snare for the planners, for now. I sure hope many of those people come back. I saw the videos of the projects and I’ll tell you, I’ve seen people living in much worse up here and calling it home. As a carpenter, I see lots of potential in those places.

  31. kate
    December 17, 2007 at 1:52 am

    Um, I meant “undesirables” in a sarcastic tone, I lived in a building on this street a short time when my kids were little, the building was a shelter for families.

  32. Hector B.
    December 17, 2007 at 3:06 am

    I don’t know about the Ickes Homes, but I know that the Robert Taylor Homes and Stateway Gardens were not nice places to live and raise families. The public housing model that worked was not the vertical ghetto, with elevators always breaking down, and “galleries” with only chain-link fencing keeping kids from falling to their deaths, but lowrise housing such as LeClaire Courts, where mothers could keep an eye on their kids while fixing dinner.

  33. December 18, 2007 at 12:03 am

    Thank you for sharing this terrific post. I just linked, and my blog crashed as I went to publish. ARGH!!!!!

  34. Ms Lucubrations
    December 18, 2007 at 6:49 am

    I agree that community is good, but on what grounds do you claim that “housing is a right”? By this do you mean that the government has an obligation to provide everyone with free housing? Should it not be the responsibility of individuals and individual families to work to provide housing for themselves and family members. A genuine question, not trolling.

  35. December 18, 2007 at 8:00 am

    Ms Lucubrations, assuming that your question is genuine and not trolling, I’ll point you in the direction of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

    Article 25.

    (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

  36. December 18, 2007 at 11:33 am

    It seems that the sense of community – which is actually a sense of humanity – has been truly lost. It’s a shame that only those in the truly downs and outs take the time to get to know their neighbours (both literal and figurative).

    Case in point: Ottawa had the worst snowfall in 60 yrs this weekend. And I saw the most humane actions from complete strangers during the storm. Cars that were ditched were immediately followed by complete strangers who pulled over and helped them out. Bus drivers went out of their way to pick up people who were clearly way too far from the actual stop.

    Why does it take a storm (or a hurricane, or the loss of a job/housing/loved one) for people to find their humanity?

    /End philosophical rant

  37. December 18, 2007 at 10:21 pm

    Dear God above, I love you, kactus.

  38. December 18, 2007 at 10:29 pm

    I was a transient child. Mom and I moved at least once a year until I hit puberty. And my family is “mentally ill” — more specifically, very paranoid and insular; it in itself is a community, but untrusting of those outside, which probably impeded my ability to form relationships with those around me. …. as did my complete reticence, always shaking and scared of someone from On High (which meant anyone, really) informing me what I had done wrong now… made me fairly insular myself.

    But God do I understand this, still. You don’t take that away from people. We depend on each other, not just financially. You can’t just rip people out of the ground and toss them to the side, not even making sure they land in good soil — you cut them off from their roots, the very thing that helps them *live.* You just don’t do that.

    We need each other.

  39. December 18, 2007 at 11:12 pm

    This post has really opened my eyes, and I thank all of you for your input.

    What is confirms for me is that the need and desire for community cuts across all kinds of boundaries.

  40. December 21, 2007 at 2:22 pm

    I don’t believe I’ve ever paid rent that is at or less than the recommended 30% of my income.

    Thirty percent is what’s recommended? Wow. I can’t even imagine that. *calculates* I’ve never paid less than 80% of my income to rent. If I take my boyfriend’s income into account (we live together; I pay rent and he pays for everything else), it drops to about 50%… but even so, with all housing-related stuff taken into consideration, we have about 10 – 20% of our income left over for food and other bills.

    Thankfully, we’re moving somewhere that’ll only take 60% of my income each month… but since I just lost my car, that’s going to get eaten up by insurance and car payments.

  41. December 21, 2007 at 3:27 pm

    Mag, until I moved two months ago into subsidized housing, I was paying more than 50% of my income to rent. That’s why I stayed in that falling-down house for so many years–because I couldn’t have gotten anything cheaper.

    Thank goddess for finally getting subsidized housing. I mean, if I could get up and dance I would, just to show how thankful I am. Subsidized housing means that every extraordinary expense that comes up isn’t an emergency–it means that I can actually relax a bit, for the first time in years.

    Boy, do I sympathize with the NOLA protesters.

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