Stories about life in Liddonfield housing project and its impact on the Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood of Upper Holmesburg. These true stories reveal how government policy affected the lives of real people, from the project residents to area homeowners during the 5 decades of Liddonfield’s existence. Stories and articles are written by a former resident of the project.


Rosemary Reeves, Blogger, standing on Philadelphia Skyline

Oct 25, 2010

Public Housing Roots Now a Plus in Republican Campaign

I must be dreaming when a politician’s public housing roots become a plus in a political campaign. 
Rick Scott is running for governor of Florida and he ingeniously turned a negative into a positive in his own campaign commercial.  Scott, a multi-millionaire Republican, lived in a housing project for three years as a child and is advertising that fact in order to appeal to working-class people.  Even more astounding is that he has been accused by some of misleading voters because he didn’t live in public housing long enough! 
There seems to be a dispute as to what length of time is required to claim public housing roots.  In her interview for The Sun Sentinel, Daniel Smith, a political science professor and director of the University of Florida's political campaigning program is quoted as saying, "I think this would pass the smell test in terms of his claims that he did live in public housing. Whether or not that constitutes growing up in public housing, two, three years is certainly just a small slice of one's childhood."
Oh, it’s just a small slice of one’s childhood, is it?  Maybe Professor Smith should have taken a course in Psychology before making that statement.  There is a reason why psychologists research early childhood development – because the things that occur in our early childhood influence who we become.
If nothing much happens in your early childhood, you probably won’t remember much.  But if it was punctuated by difficulty, family strife, poverty or isolation from the greater society (housing projects are designed to isolate its residents) then there may be profound effects on a child’s development which can last a lifetime.  Not all of these effects manifest as a negative.  It may well be that Rick Scott’s experience in a housing project was the driving force behind his goal of accumulating wealth, which he attained with resounding success. 
An article in The Palm Beach Post News even points out that “Scott's older brother and two younger brothers recalled austere times during their early childhoods, as their father was sometimes without work around the holidays.”  The fact that his younger siblings recall hard times suggests that the family continued to struggle financially after moving out of the housing project.  There tends to be a misconception that once a family is no longer in public housing, they suddenly find themselves on Easy Street.  This is simply not true.  There is a long stretch where transitioning families are simply treading water. 
When my own family moved out of Liddonfield Housing Project, my parents could barely make the mortgage payments on their new home.  The Goodwill truck still delivered used clothing to our house (a humiliating experience in our new neighborhood where everyone else had more money).  When grocery shopping with my mother, she would make me put the fresh produce back because we couldn’t afford it.  We froze in the winter to keep the heating bill down.  In school, I missed out on class trips, special outings and having my school portrait taken because my parents couldn’t pay.  If Scott experienced anything like that, no wonder he was driven to become a multi-millionaire. 
As a former public housing resident, part of me wants to root for Rick Scott.  But the other part is asking, why is this guy a Republican?  The Republican Party is notorious for its opposition to public assistance programs and is no friend to the poor.  Has Rick Scott become overzealous in his quest to escape poverty?  As a former housing project resident, I’m disappointed in one of my own.  It’s not enough to do well for yourself, Rick.  You have to do well for others also. 

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