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.

FIGHT THE STIGMA!

FIGHT THE STIGMA!
Rosemary Reeves, Blogger, standing on Philadelphia Skyline

Jun 11, 2012

Section 8 Troublemakers Turn Public Against the Poor

by Rosemary Reeves


When I was kid, I didn’t know what my father did for a living.  I knew he did some kind of manual labor, but that was all.  He never talked about his job and because of his temper I spent most of my time avoiding him.  He was like a stranger to me.  Dad spoke very little unless he was yelling about something.  I was shocked to find out in my forties that Dad played the guitar when he was a teenager.  

After we moved out of the projects, Dad always wore pressed slacks and a nice shirt whenever he went outside.  He wouldn’t have the neighbors see him in anything more casual.  It was important to him to present his social status as equal to theirs, to wash away the stain of having come from the housing project.  Hence, my confusion as to what his job entailed.  For a long time I thought he was a painter because he’d occasionally bring home cans of paint from his job.  He was actually a maintenance man.  By the time we moved out of the project he had become the supervisor of the maintenance crew.  

Since as far as we knew, we were the first family in the area to move out of the project and on a block with regular homeowners, we felt the heavy responsibility that came with that distinction.  Though Mom and Dad couldn’t afford to fix the leaky roof for the first few years, we kept our house clean.  The front lawn was mowed regularly first by Dad, then by my brother Kevin and then by me.  I loved to mow the grass with that old fashioned manual lawn mower.  In the winter Dad shoveled.  The neighbors could complain that we were from the projects, but nobody could say that the Reeves’s were bringing blight to their neighborhood.

That is why as a former public housing resident, I am aggravated with Section 8 households that disrespect the neighborhoods they have moved into.   Problem Section 8-ers are a large part of why honest low-income families have to struggle with stigma to this day.  The damage these bad apples cause to good neighborhoods turns the public against all of us and that means less dollars going to poor families that truly need and deserve such help.

The good low-income families of northeast Philadelphia and beyond don't like Section 8 troublemakers either.  The Philadelphia Housing Authority should do a better job of dropping them from the system so that housing vouchers go only to those who have the sense to respect good neighborhoods.

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