How a Program Intended to Help the Poor Became an ATM for Billionaires
The Real Baltimore explores how public housing has enriched wealthy developers across the country through the prism of a deal to redevelop a critical subsidized housing complex in the city
The Real Baltimore explores how public housing has enriched wealthy developers across the country through the prism of a deal to redevelop a critical subsidized housing complex in the city
Stephen Janis: Wealth inequality continues to define America, and here in Baltimore, that growing divide is easy to see. Great wealth and abject poverty exist side by side, sometimes separated by just a few blocks. And nowhere is that more apparent than the subject of our show, Perkins Homes.
It’s a low-income development that houses over 600 families. But it’s also right next door to the city’s gold coast, known as Harbor East. And now the city has turned over the rights to overhaul it to a developer who has built gleaming towers with the help of big tax breaks. And it’s a move that’s raising concerns among residents and advocates. And it raises the question, will gentrification envelop this community like it has others?
To help me answer this and more is a panel of people who know the subject matter intimately. Lucky Crosby is a former whistle-blower for the Baltimore Housing Department. Taya Graham is a reporter for the Real News Network. And Jeff Singer is a former Executive Director of Health Care for the Homeless, and Professor at University of Maryland School of Social Work.
But before we get to our conversation, we have a report from Taya Graham.
Tineda Wilson: Feel like I’m not a part of that world. It seems like it’s another world over there.
Taya Graham: From the window of her apartment in Perkins Homes, Tineda Wilson can see a Baltimore much different from where she lives.
Tineda Wilson: It’s beautiful. I can lay on my bed and look and dream that one day maybe I’ll have an apartment or something beautiful like that. But that’s all I can do is just look and observe.
Taya Graham: It is a world of gleaming towers and pricey homes known as Harbor East. But she took us on a tour of her apartment, part of the low income housing project called Perkins Homes, where the city’s largess is nowhere to be seen.
Tineda Wilson: Now here is where I have stuffed foam in and when you close one hole up they’ll eat right next to it.
Taya Graham: She has battled mice, black mold, and insects. The water damage remains unfixed. She has even experienced harassment from maintenance workers.
Tineda Wilson: Either they’re trying to get your phone number, they’re trying to have sex with you, they want to charge you for all of these things. So it makes you really not even want to call them.
Taya Graham: But she still has hope and dreams of change. Which is why she, along with other residents, spoke to The Real News about the just announced plan revitalize Perkins.
Resident: They told us that they found a developer for the property, but they didn’t tell us who. They said that they spoke with the Mayor, the Mayor’s gonna give they a piece of property for them to start building.
Taya Graham: The city said last week it awarded a company called Beatty Development the right to redevelop the 17-acre site, home to over 600 people.
Tineda Wilson: And I am worried because they have said several things and didn’t keep their word.
Taya Graham: And most important, will the city’s plan include the community that at times seems not just forgotten, but ignored.
Resident: That they gonna move all of us back in here and it’s gonna be a better place and all that. Because half of the people are not gonna be able to come back at all.
Stephen Janis: All right. So, Taya, what do we know about this deal. I mean Perkins Homes is always been rumored to be on the chopping block because of its proximity to the inner harbor. The city just announced … What did the city say?
Taya Graham: Well first off, Perkins Homes is a 75-year-old complex that houses low-income residents. There are families that have been there literally for generations. Well right now, Beatty Development is making a play to be able to revitalize Perkins Projects. And once again receive federal and state subsidies and tax subsidies to do so.
Stephen Janis: Well we don’t know that yet, but we think-
Taya Graham: Well that follows Beatty’s pattern.
Stephen Janis: And Beatty Development built Harbor Point, right?
Taya Graham: Exactly. This follows his pattern of, for example, using enterprise zonesn which means you get state funding because you’re using a low-income area in order to say, I want to do this development project here. I promise I will build up infrastructure, make lovely new homes for these low-income residents. Please give me this state money.
So he has used state money, federal money, and local money before to fund his projects and get tax subsidies.
Stephen Janis: Well Lucky, there weren’t many details about the deal for Perkins Homes, to redevelop it. But they did say something very interesting. They said we will have housing for all levels of income. I mean, you’ve got 600 families here. What do you think that means. How do you interpret that kind of cryptic language about the future of Perkins Homes?
Lucky Crosby: 600 families, 1400 people roughly, live there. I’m concerned whenever you hear billionaires that now want to do what’s right for poor folk. Nobody object to that Perkins Homes needs some renovation. What they objecting is why do you have to displace those families? If you bringing in units, you should already account for the 600 families. So you need to add the 600 units to the development you’re doing.
And when you here these codewords, we’ve been here before. About how the developer’s coming and they gonna increase the community. And you just hear something, but it ain’t coming. Do you really think someone gonna spend $400,000 for a home and knowingly know that you have a low- income person? The stigma that they put on it. So we know that’s gonna be counter-productive for not only the $400,000 family but the low-income family.
Stephen Janis: Well Jeff, we’ve talked a lot. You’ve worked with Health Care for the Homeless for years. We talked a lot about housing. One of the rumors has been that the city just wants to convert all of these public housing units into private and get rid of low income people. Is this another step in that direction, in your opinion?
Jeff Singer: I fear that it likely is. The gentrification that’s already begun … we have Harbor East, we have Harbor Point, we have Fells Point. And Perkins Homes is right in the middle of all that. So what’s the chance that the 600 units, which had been dedicated to low-income folks, what’s the chance that they’ll have that many units in this new development?
Bill Clinton eliminated the requirement that when public housing units are destroyed or rehab-ed that they have to be replace on a one-to-one basis. Bill Clinton eliminated that.
Stephen Janis: Many things of legacy he’s given us.
Jeff Singer: Oh indeed. But some cities decided to keep that policy. Seattle, San Francisco. We begged the City of Baltimore to keep that policy. Oh no, we were told by a variety of housing commissioners, no, we can’t do that here in Baltimore.
Stephen Janis: Well Catherine Pugh-
Taya Graham: No I just wanted to add that we’re saying we want to have housing replaced for people. But the thing is, the city over the past 25 years, the public housing has dwindled by 30% and there’s only around 12,000 or fewer public housing units left. And another 4000 are going to be sold to private developers. So if you look at this trend, we’re losing our public housing.
Stephen Janis: Well you know, I’ve heard Catherine Pugh say this, I’ve heard former Mayor Sheila Dixon, and Catherine Pugh is the current Mayor of Baltimore. Public housing is not a lifetime solution, it’s only supposed to be temporary. Well Jeff, why don’t you react to that and I’ll get Lucky next.
Jeff Singer: Yeah. Because historically there is no support for that notion. And yes, we hear it all the time. Every Housing Commissioner of Baltimore has said it, the Mayors always say it, but no. When public housing was first created in 1937 there was no language of it being transitional housing, and it’s a starter home, and then you buy your housing. Most countries have vibrant public housing sectors, we don’t.
Stephen Janis: And Lucky, what do you think? Do you believe the theory that this is just a matter of completely eliminating public housing in Baltimore in the long run?
Lucky Crosby: I believe completely eliminating public housing. But when you have the bourgeoisie and the elite of Baltimore city now justifying, because now it looks bad, it’s an eyesore. Well in the city, in their charter they supposed to provide decent and affordable and stable housing. What they have not done because they allow the property to go decay it they way they have. And now you see because we have no progressive public housing policies in this city, now you have the money-grabbers is what I call them, coming in grabbing, making promises, and the citizens of Baltimore too. But let’s keep in mind when you talk about Perkins, where it sit, and it’s in what you would call that developer gold mine-
Taya Graham: It’s a developer corridor. It’s linking to basically Ritzy waterfront property.
Lucky Crosby: Right. But the article Sunday spoke about a $30 million grant. In other words, the $30 million dollar grant gonna go to who, the developers? Not to fix up Perkins Homes? And let’s understand, you cannot keep on displacing people at the rate that this city have, when we have the vacant housing crisis that we have and no one’s addressing that. We need a progressive policy that take in the humanity of people.
Stephen Janis: Well just so people understand. This is very interesting because you have Harbor Point, Harbor East, which are just within a stone’s throw. And you have literally all the sort of jewels let’s say of Baltimore. And the one place where people can live of low-income and have access to those amenities is Perkins Homes.
Lucky Crosby: Exactly. It should be kept for that reason alone.
Stephen Janis: Now Taya you did a very poignant interview with a young women who lived there who talked about that. How are people in Perkins Homes reacting to this news?
Taya Graham: Well first I spoke to four or five women in Perkins Homes. One in particular was named Tineda Wilson and she was kind enough to let me into her home to show me. She had some pictures of what here home looked like before the repairs happened. She told me when I asked her, what is it like living in Perkins Homes, she said it’s like living in jail without bars. And that just really hurt my heart to hear that.
Stephen Janis: And what did she mean by that? That’s an issue that people don’t understand about public housing. She can’t have guests, family members can’t live with her.
Taya Graham: So one of the things she mentioned is she would want to have a family member come over for the weekend or for the week during the holidays. And that it was very difficult for her to do so without risking eviction. Because they’re concerned that if you have family member in the home that you’re actually trying to have another person secretly on the lease. And so it’s very difficult to have something simple like having your grandmother who’s sick stay with you for two weeks while you take care of her. Just simple things like that. That simple liberties that you have if you are in your own home or you’re renting your own home, that you don’t have if you live in public housing.
And I just want to add that the residents are really confused. The community really has no idea what Beatty Development’s plans are. They know that they said that they’re gonna come in and fix up the housing. They were told that they were gonna get to stay. But they said on average every five years for decades now that a developer’s gonna come in, they’re gonna fix up the houses, they’re gonna let them stay, and everything’s gonna be fine. But we know that’s not true. Just last summer there was a Virginia based group I believe called CRC that was going to engage in a $200 million renovation project and it fell through, and we have no answers as to why.
Stephen Janis: Well Jeff, at the top of the show I talked about income inequality. Has there been historically a program that is supposed to be intended for people of low-income but that has enriched the riches. And of course our own president has participated in this, our own President Donald Trump. I mean-
Jeff Singer: Your president. Somebody’s president.
Stephen Janis: Somebody’s president. The point is you have this program that looks like Beatty is gonna get a big payout. And it looks like big, already wealthy people … isn’t this the point of the spear in terms of creating more income inequality the way these deals are structured?
Jeff Singer: Well absolutely. It began actually with the Nixon administration. Public housing was a fairly vibrant kind of program beginning in 1937. And then the Nixon administration created the Section 8 program, and Section 8 was a way to produce profits for private developers through what used to be public housing. And much of the money that used to support public housing then went into this private program called Section 8.
Trump is among many who have made millions of dollars in housing poor folks using public dollars. Trump apparently makes at least $5 million a year from one project in Brooklyn, New York.
Stephen Janis: This is all federal money going in.
Jeff Singer: This is our hard-earned tax dollars.
Stephen Janis: This isn’t private enterprise they pride themselves on. They’re actually living off the public coffers.
Jeff Singer: That’s right and it does exacerbate income inequality. If we just built up the public housing program instead of just giving the profits to these private developers we could have many more people with the same amount of money, and folks could run their own housing in a democratic way. This is the way it’s done in lots of other countries but we can’t figure out how to do it here.
Stephen Janis: I mean it’s not our responsibility to give Trump enough money so he doesn’t have to sell condos to Russians, right? That’s not our responsibility.
Lucky Crosby: You mention a point about income inequality. You have the housing executive branch is one of the highest paid in the country.
Stephen Janis: They housing executive branch of-
Lucky Crosby: Of HEC Baltimore City.
Stephen Janis: So just so people know, Baltimore City’s housing authorities were the highest paid in the country.
Lucky Crosby: In the country. It was the fifth largest but they way they twinkle the numbers you don’t know anymore. But the point that I’m making, you have six-figure executives, and you have the employees that does the maintenance work can’t even afford to live in public housing that they work in. And when you say the income inequality, it has always been that you pay the top all this money and the little crumbs trickle down to the employee, which happen to be union employees.
Stephen Janis: And that’s gonna get worse under what’s known as the RAD program, which is another program about privatization of public housing. That’s gonna get worse-
Lucky Crosby: Because you gonna lose union employees and the private developers can set the wages where they want to set them at. So we not only just eliminating the public housing part, we’re eliminating the employees that soon will need the public housing subsidies because they won’t be employed anymore.
Stephen Janis: Well Taya there’s another piece to this too, and I know not everyone watching this lives in Baltimore, but there’s another piece that we looked at a year ago, Old Town Mall, that also involves who?
Taya Graham: Sure. I mean Old Town Mall, just for the record, used to be a vibrant outdoor shopping center for people of all walks of life to be able to enjoy, especially middle and low-income people.
Stephen Janis: And it’s just a little bit north of Perkins Homes and basically-
Taya Graham: And it’s like a pedestrian shopping mall, and outdoor shopping mall-
Stephen Janis: But now it’s completely abandoned.
Taya Graham: Right, and so once again Beatty Development has stepped to the forefront and said, I would be happy to participate in renovating this. Now one things that’s interesting is there’s two groups, Change 4 Real and the Ingoma Foundation, who has said, oh the next time a developer comes in, we’re actually gonna have a plan in place. We actually have a holistic, community supporting program, where we want to make sure we have retail stores for small local business owners. We want to make sure that there’s accessibility and affordability for the residents that actually live there, not just for the wealthy of Baltimore City. Because what we’re seeing here, as you mentioned income inequality, is once again we’re getting the two Baltimores. And we have to wonder, what’s gonna happen to Perkins Homes? Are we gonna keep the residents there, the families there? Or are they gonna be clustered into a small section and this is gonna be part of this huge swath of waterfront and connected property for the wealthy elite of our city to enjoy and be their playground?
Lucky Crosby: And keep in mind, you talk about the corridor of Old Town Mall. Ten feet away sits Monument East, another public development. 300 feet across the street, Latrobe.
Stephen Janis: But there’s Pleasant View Gardens there now. SO you could really have a mini city-
Lucky Crosby: Exactly [inaudible 00:16:24] is under HABC but they privatized that and brought in another management company.
Taya Graham: So you know that begs the question, I would want to know from Lucky, does that mean that these housing projects have been allowed to decay and fall into disrepair so that private developers have to be invited in to save the day?
Lucky Crosby: 100% correct. Keep in mind there was capital investments funds supposed to have been used to make the development to make sure for the major stuff. Like the infrastructure, like the plumbing, the roofs, to make sure. The money always been diverted and they sent painters to do the work that was supposed to have been done to maintain them. And yes, to answer your question, 100% yes they have been left to decay because they wanted to sell the property at a low price to developers.
Stephen Janis: Now Jeff, obviously we’ve had a problem with subsidizing low-income people, but the city’s had no problem giving wealthy developers hundreds of millions. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Jeff Singer: Well it’s a national policy. The mortgage interest deduction is an enormous tax payer subsidy that goes mostly to people with over $100,000 a year. Most middle class people can’t even get the mortgage-
Stephen Janis: But even more specifically in Baltimore-
Jeff Singer: But we’ve given really large subsidies to developers all over the city. We had 14 TIFs that went $14 to $1 to projects that would benefit poor and middle class people.
Stephen Janis: And just to people understand, TIFs are tax increment financing, which basically means you can take the money you’d pay towards your loans or mortgage and reinvest it in your property because your property taxes … you don’t have to pay property taxes, basically. But bottom line is, a TIF means you don’t have to pay property taxes.
Jeff Singer: Yes, and it has lots of negative ramifications. Among them being school appropriations cause the city’s school system has lost hundreds of millions of dollars because of these TIFs. And when this was raised during the Harbor Point discussions, the city denied that that was the case. And of course it was, and it the city has had $130 million deficit in the schools in part because of these TIFs.
Stephen Janis: And also both the projects, the major ones, Port Covington which is $600 million and Harbor Point, which is $100 million dollars, they’re point running into delays. It’s questionable, the $600 million Port Covington TIF was to Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, well his company now is kind of reeling-
Taya Graham: It is. Two bad quarters.
Stephen Janis: That plan includes a lot of increasing employees in his firm. And if that doesn’t happen … Jeff are we giving up generational wealth here?
Jeff Singer: Well it appears so. We have never had a plan to assure that most Baltimorians had decent, safe, affordable housing. We’ve begged the city to do this for decades, they’ve refused to do it. They act on an ad hoc basis and the ad hoc actions generally benefit wealthy developers who make the campaign contributions. Who belong to the same country clubs, who send their kids to the same private schools. These a real class divide in the US and we can see how it works in the public policy that supports private development.
Lucky Crosby: Keep in mind, to me it would seem that the housing authority would hire an independent inspection company to come in and inspect every unit at Perkins starting a Perkins. They you create a cause-effect, and what was the cause? To redevelop those 600 units. Today none of it has been done. When they bring in consultants, the consultant is already meeting with the developer. Not for what’s best for the residents in Perkins. And again, the Baltimore City Council have no authority over the housing authority.
Stephen Janis: Yeah, cause it’s technically an independent agency. The mayor appoints the board members and it sort of operates outside the scope of legislative oversight. So they’re basically free to do whatever they want so long as the Mayor’s happy.
Lucky Crosby: Exactly. So you talk about now six people making the decision. The board of commissioners, the Executive Director, and the Mayor. It’s no accountability in that, because most of the meetings are held while most of the people that are affected are at work.
Stephen Janis: Taya, there was a big scandal at Gilmor Homes, which is where Freddie Gray was arrested about sex in exchange for repairs, where women were asked to give up sex to get their homes repaired. No you heard some pretty shocking allegations at Perkins Homes. Tell us about that.
Taya Graham: Absolutely. Despite the fact that there were calls for the then Head of Housing Graziano to resign, and I’ve heard from Lucky that he’s moved on to bigger and better things, right?
Lucky Crosby: In the hood.
Taya Graham: Right. But unfortunately it seems that sex for repairs is still occurring. And there were women that I spoke to in Perkins Homes who told me that to get simple repairs that they are often requested to give money to maintenance workers for repairs that are supposed to be free. Or to offer sexual services. And one woman, I won’t say her name cause I don’t want to call her out in that way, but she said you know, what do you do? You’ve got to take care of your kids. Some of them mentioned having children with asthma or disabilities and things like that. And saying you’ve got black mold and things like that in the house, it’s affecting your children, what do you do? Sometimes you just have to give in. And that is just devastating to hear that.
Stephen Janis: Lucky, you were instrumental in exposing what was going on at Gilmor Homes about the sex for exchange … How is this still going on? Because there was a settlement where the city paid like $6 million or indictments, of course the two men were not convicted because witnesses didn’t show up … But how is this still going on, if it is going on?
Lucky Crosby: Let’s be perfectly clear. You have a lack of leadership here. The housing authority has a safety officer. The same position that I have, HABC have one. And to be direct, to answer your question, the lady just said it’s still going on. And what is being done? Housing wanted to cover this underbelly up that going on for decades. And now it blew up in their face. But my point to that, no maintenance man is allowed to ask for money to do his or her work. No maintenance man is allowed to ask for sex for doing their work. And because the culture of intimidation comes from 417, most of the women and the men are afraid to report it because it goes … There’s no inspector general. So if I make a complaint, the complaint goes to the HR Director. The HR director then have the autonomy to say let’s transfer that person, let’s transfer that employee.
Stephen Janis: They do eviction proceedings, right? I mean sometimes.
Lucky Crosby: Well, yes they can. Under your lease they can … Just like you mentioned about the woman who may want family. It depends in my opinion. If it’s an attractive young lady, the manager won’t evict her for that.
Stephen Janis: Wow. It almost seems like the conditions here, I mean you have poor living conditions, de-investment in homes, but you have kids and families … It’s almost like it’s sort of reinvigorating poverty. In a way it becomes a trap. Is that what we’re dealing with in this public housing. What is it at this point?
Jeff Singer: Dickens wrote about it in a previous century. People are living in incredibly bad situations and there are government bureaucracies that are collaborating with private for-profit companies and taking public tax dollars. And the end result of that is the racial wealth gap in Baltimore where there’s a two to one difference between the median wealth of white Baltimorians and the median wealth of African-American Baltimorians. A third of all African-American Baltimorians have zero net worth. Historically, because of segregation and redlining black families haven’t been able to build up wealth. And our schools have decayed because beginning in the 1970s previous administrations began to pull money out of the Baltimore City public schools so they could put it into downtown development. There’s a lot of good research on this. So we’ve allowed the school systems to decay. All these things work together to exacerbate the racial wealth gap that has influenced white supremacy in Baltimore. And now we do have the Tent City folks who very specifically have a conscious effort to do something about white supremacy but we really need to support their work.
Stephen Janis: Just so people know there was a protest outside city hall, people put tents because really the city has not had any concerted plan to address homelessness and it’s gotten worse. Well I don’t know, is that-
Jeff Singer: Well there’s been a plan. 2007 we wrote a plan to abolish homelessness. It was never implemented.
Stephen Janis: Right the ten year plan. But Stephanie really … well the preceding administration after Dixon really didn’t follow through on that right?
Jeff Singer: Worse than didn’t follow through. For example, the plan said that Housing First is Baltimore’s model for abolishing homelessness.
Stephen Janis: Can you explain Housing First?
Jeff Singer: And Housing First means that you do outreach to people living on the street, you put them into their own apartments, and then you provide whatever services they might need. Whether their addiction treatment or mental health services, physical health services, education, employment training, all that. You do that after someone has a decent place to live. That’s Housing First. It works really well it’s been evaluated many times. Generally, 85% of folks who are put into their own houses straight from the street stay in those houses five years later and ten years later.
Stephen Janis: That’s amazing.
Taya Graham: That’s wonderful.
Jeff Singer: So it works. The city adopted it in 2007 and never ever implemented it. And instead of that they’ve been closing encampments, destroying the belongings of people who live in the encampments.
Stephen Janis: And are they trying sort of to do litmus tests to keep people out of housing?
Jeff Singer: Well they do something called assessments. There’s this racket called assessments that the homeless industrial complex has created.
Stephen Janis: Wow, there’s a homeless industrial complex.
Jeff Singer: There is. And it’s $2 billion a year of federal funds. And lots more in state and local funds. And a lot of people get employed through it. I used to. And some people make decent salaries doing it. But this assessment business is they insist that before you can put someone into their house you have to assess all of their needs. It’s contrary to the real Housing First approach. People sell the assessments, there are companies that are set up just to write and sell assessments.
Lucky Crosby: When I was at Tent City, it was at least six groups going as assessments. At least six of them, so that tell you where the money at. But let’s keep in mind, we talking about Homeless first, you count the people that sleeping on their sister, their mother, their grandmother’s couch because there’s no progressive outreach. Why if you call 1029 Pratt Street, the housing authority number, I would think you give me your name I tell you where your name at on the list. But it’s kinda insulting to tell someone, you 109,000 on the list when they already know how. And so people get frustrated and they move several times so the information never gets to them. But my whole thing has been, I understand the need for assessment, but Housing First is the model. Put them in the house, they assess them. That’s called wrap-around services. We don’t have that in Baltimore. Now they moved the Tent City people up to a elementary school in West Baltimore. And we know what they type of health problems that elementary schools, middle schools have in Baltimore. I seen myself young children in there. I know the building where they at. It’s not fit for human consumption. But the housing allows it because our political power made that happen like that.
Taya Graham: Can I just add one thing about this Tent City? One of the reasons why the tent city stayed right on, let’s say Mayor Pugh’s doorstep, for as long as it did is because women were going there for safety reasons. Women were going to these tents to stay on the front lawn of city hall because they were safe there. Because women who are homeless are incredibly subjected to rape, to violence, to theft on the street. And that’s where they went to be safe. So if our city says they care about women, they care about children, they care about families, they really need to address homelessness and reinstate as you said the Homeless First policy. Excuse me, Housing First policy
Stephen Janis: Well let’s wrap this up here. We have no homeless policy, the tax breaks to wealthy developers and tremendous uncertainty of women in Perkins Homes.
Taya Graham: Women and Children unsafe.
Stephen Janis: How do we get out of this? What do we do?
Lucky Crosby: Let me just speak about Perkins Homes and the issue that you brought up. It would seem to me that the new Executive Director of Housing would en-panel people to go knock door to door and see what happen and then do an investigation. But meanwhile move the staff, switch staffs. Send the McCulloh Homes staff to Perkins and move the Perkins staff to McCulloh Homes. So the people, the residents can feel as though they can talk and something’s being done. This the problem, nothing is being done. Only thing I believe the administration of Housing understands is lawsuit. Liability, that’s the only thing.
Stephen Janis: Is there any way to change this public policy. Obviously we’re in a terrible situation with Trump administration. Could we have any control at the local level to make some sort of-
Jeff Singer: Well we should. And for example there’s an organization in Baltimore called Communities United. Communities United is organizing the people who live in Perkins Homes and McCulloh and Gilmor, and on October 18th in fact I’m convening a meeting at the School of Social Work, University of Maryland School of Social Work, of the Communities United folks, their tenant’s organizers, and the School of Social Work folks to work on this issue of how do we change the policies. How do we move democracy into public housing? How do we have public housing policies that benefit our poor neighbors rather than public policies that benefit the rich.
Stephen Janis: One thing, we’ll end it on you, talk about the anxiety, what it’s like to live in public housing? They don’t really know where they’re gonna be.
Taya Graham: Right, well that was really one of the things that struck me was that the women didn’t have any clear information. They were told once again that a group of people were gonna come in, make their lives better, repair their homes, and that they were still going to be able to live in the community. But they really don’t know the truth. And so there’s incredible insecurity. And these are women with children who are trying to take care of their families.
Stephen Janis: Some people with five, six children.
Taya Graham: Five or six kids sometimes, and they are the primary caretaker, the primary caregiver for their relatives and for their children. And for them not to know where they’re going to be living a year from now is incredibly disheartening, incredibly stressful for them.
Stephen Janis: And I think we should all think about that. I mean housing, as Jeff has pointed out, getting people housing first stabilizes them. It’s not the other way around. And not to know where you’re gonna be living, if you’re gonna have a place to live. It adds to psychological stress.
Taya Graham: If you’re gonna have a home that you can afford.
Lucky Crosby: And it adds to the anxiety when they turn on the news, when they open up the newspaper and they see that the people who are supposed to be making decisions really don’t know what decisions need to be made.
Stephen Janis: Well we got a lot of soul-searching to do in the country where we enrich developers and we take women with families and create anxiety and poverty and horrible living conditions. I mean, if we don’t change this … But anyway I really appreciate it Jeff, Lucky, Taya, thank you so much. We’ll continue this conversation. This is Stephen Janis and thank you for joining me on The Real Baltimore.