In the fall of 2015 I started blogging for Rooflines, a community development blog published by the National Housing Institute. Specifically, I’ve been writing about issues pertaining to public housing, race, gender and class. I would love it if you would take a look at my first two posts and let me know what you think.
In November I wrote about what demolishing public housing buildings does to communities.
Media and policy makers emphasized that the high-rise public housing model was the cause of crime, drug-use, and unemployment among people living below the poverty line. They emphasized that poor people living among other poor people only exacerbated poverty, but the problem with this narrative is that it failed to see the residents of these communities as human beings. It fell into the sloppy habit of seeing poor black women (black women make up the majority of the residents serviced by the Chicago Housing Authority, eighty-four percent), as objects that simply give birth to crime, disorder, and national welfare debt, to be managed and moved around.
In reality, these communities were made up of individual residents who’d made these public housing developments their homes; the people who lived next door were neighbors and friends. These communities were also political blocks. Every public housing development had an elected local advisory council that not only worked to ensure things functioned normally within the development, but also advocated for residents city-wide at Chicago Housing Authority Board meetings and in front of the wider public. These local advisory councils often conducted voter registration throughout their neighborhoods and made sure residents showed up on voting day, during presidential elections, and during off-years. Long-time members of various Local Advisory Councils were also sometimes voted to two of the resident position on the Chicago Housing Authority Executive Board.
Check out the rest of the piece here…
In January I wrote about the sexual abuse of Baltimore public housing residents, and the ways in which we are all culpable for their suffering…
Like Holtzclaw, these abusers were able to operate out in the open without fear of repercussion because of who their victims were. The assumption about who black women in public housing are (welfare queens, manipulators of the entitlements systems, lazy, shiftless, unwilling to work, etc…) not only creates a negative media and political environment about social supports for the poor, it has also created a bureaucratic space within public housing authorities all over the country that is not only physically violent, but emotionally violent as well.
In my research about the experience of black women living in Chicago public housing, over and over again women reported experiences of being degraded, ignored, and pushed aside by employees within the Chicago Housing Authority. The very people we hire to make sure that the most vulnerable of our population have housing, food, and support often treat residents with a blatant disregard that is often more common than not. Unfortunately, housing authority employees all over the country are absorbing the same toxic political and media narratives about the poor that the rest of us are. As a result, spaces like the Baltimore Housing Authority—where multiple women could complain of sexual assault over a number of years and are simply ignored—are created. Instead, we assume that black women, especially poor black women, are just lazy and hypersexual.
Read the rest by clicking here…
Keep your eyes out, because going forward I will be blogging every month about the role identity plays in the development of public housing all over the country.