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

Sep 10, 2012

Your Beliefs About the Poor May Cause the Ruin of Your Neighborhood

by Rosemary Reeves

You live in a nice area but then poor people move in, either because a public housing development was constructed nearby or because of housing vouchers.  The next thing you know, your neighborhood is in decline.  It’s all the fault of the poor people, right?  Think again.  The culprit could be you.

Here are some of the ways in which you may sabotage your neighborhood:
Denial (or How you Wasted Time)

With poverty climbing in the United States, you should expect the poor to show up in your neighborhood at some point.  You deny that will ever happen because you are involved in your local civic group and they have vowed to protest public housing in your area.  There will be protests in the streets if they even try it and your city councilman has your back.  So, you choose to deny, deny, deny.  Meanwhile, HUD is drawing a map of your neighborhood at its next meeting.  Even if it isn’t, you forgot about people with housing vouchers.  Nowadays, low-income people don’t have to live in housing projects.  With vouchers, they can live anywhere they want and that means your neighborhood.  

Speaking About the Poor in Derogatory Terms

There’s no doubt that using terms like “white trash” and “lazy deadbeats” may help to release your pent-up anger at people on public assistance.  It makes you feel better for the moment, but those negative words stick with you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  While they’re sticking around, they’re turning your anger into fear.  You start asking yourself, “What if those lazy deadbeats move in next to me?”  Now, you’ve made poor people seem like monsters.  Before they even move in, those monsters start to scare you little by little until they assume power over your emotions.  Anxiety kicks in every time you think about that housing project or how poor people are going to wreck your neighborhood so you’re going to have to move.  That’s an awful lot of stress you’re carrying around and you’re magnifying it with all those ugly thoughts and feelings.  There is no secret agenda among the poor to ruin neighborhoods.  Don’t be tempted to feed the fires of hostility because that puts walls up and shuts down communication.  

 Failure to Prepare for Change

Despite all the efforts and protests by neighborhood groups to which you belong, the government has deemed that it will build its low-income housing anyway and/or people with housing vouchers will move in.   You have wasted time being in denial and that was time you could have spent preparing.  Now, you and your neighborhood groups have no idea what to do but panic, complain about the problems that arise, keep the low-income people at arm’s length and hope they behave the way you want them to.

Giving Away All Your Control

You’ve convinced yourself that you are as helpless as a lamb while the low-income people encroach upon your neighborhood like a pack of wolves, ready to devour it.  As you predicted, problems arise after the projects or the people on housing vouchers show up.  You call your city councilman and write your congressman, expecting them to have a solution. You plead with the housing authority to do something about it.  All you hear are empty promises.  You’ve done all you can, so why is the problem not getting better?  Answer:  because part of the problem is you.

Failure to Interact

In your mind the scary poor people have all the power, but you don’t want anything to do with them.  Great game plan!  If everything depends on what the poor people do when they come to your neighborhood, why on Earth aren’t you getting to know them?  Why are you sitting apprehensively in your homes and at your board meetings when you could be actively engaged in calming your fears by going to the source?  

Sympathizing by Poor Bashing

A troublesome Section 8 family moves onto the block.  They play loud music late at night.  So far, it’s a manageable issue with possible solutions.  The neighbor who lives next to them comes to you for help.  But instead of helping, you sympathize by saying, “That’s the way Section 8 scumbags behave and it’s only going to get worse.  I feel sorry for you, because you’re bearing the brunt of it right now.  Sooner or later, we’re all going to have to move out.  Hang in there!”  Then you abandon your neighbor by making him deal with the problem by himself.  Some friend you are!  For now, it’s mostly his problem but if you don’t help him deal with it, soon enough it will be yours.  All you’re doing is making him feel helpless and pushing him toward the idea of moving away.  

Confronting a Troublesome Section 8 Neighbor

You’ve had enough of his loud noise and you’re really steamed!  In the heat of the moment, you decide to confront him and make demands.  Even if you are completely in the right and even if your demands are reasonable, all he will see is some out of control lunatic banging on his door and shouting.  Never confront any neighbor in this manner. 

  Moving Out (the Nail in the Coffin)

You’ve given up and moved out.  Congratulations!  You just ruined your neighborhood.  You don’t realize it because you’re gone, but you started a domino effect. Instead of teaming up with your neighbors in a collective effort to save the ship, you were the first to bail!   Others will follow your lead.  Many more will move out.  Now, there will be a lack of balance as more folks with housing vouchers take up residence on your block.  Eventually, they will be the majority and the next thing you know, there is concentrated poverty where you used to live.  All you had to do was stay, but you let your fear control you.  Good luck paying the higher mortgage on that more expensive house you just bought in the pricey “safe” neighborhood.  

Recognize How Your Negative Belief System is Making You Powerless

You’ve been giving away all your control to the government and elected officials.  You’ve even handed over all your power and control (in your mind) to the low-income folks who moved in.  You’ve decided to just give up and move.  You’re ready to sell your house, get a different job in a new locale, uproot your children and leave your friends and relatives behind – in other words, abandon everything you’ve ever worked for – to get away from “the lazy deadbeats who are ruining the neighborhood.”  Are you crazy?  Who’s in charge here?  You’re smarter than that.  You’re not a helpless little lamb.  You’re just acting like one, because your negative belief system about the poor has led you to this end. 

I will be posting a follow-up article later in the week suggesting a new approach to preventing Section 8 blight that individuals and community groups can use.


Section 8 and Why You're Not a Role Model 

What Community Groups Do Wrong When it Comes to Section 8

Businesses Can Save Neighborhoods From Section 8 Blight


  1. Blaiming neighbors and victims for the actions of bad neighbors is like blaming a rape victim for the actions of a rapist! How dare you!

    1. People facing the ruin of their neighborhood and quality of life have looked at me with tears in their eyes and asked me for answers. They came to me as a last resort because no one else could help them - not the housing authority, nor the police, nor their local civic group, nor their church, nor any other authority they consulted. If all I do is spout the same ideas they've heard before, knowing those ideas don't work, then I would be guilty of their victimization. What I am showing them is how they lost their power and I will explain in the follow-up article how a community can keep and use its power instead.

  2. Lookn at most communities where there are low income and govt assisted homes, those communities have gone down hill or have been torn down because those people do not care about thier surroundings or other peoples property. Most of the people that get govt assistance, other then the people that are injured or not physically able to work, are lazy ass people that want to suck off the govt and continue to make babies and suck more money from the hard working, tax paying Americans.

    1. Actually, most of the people on public assistance are children. However, I will be posting more about Section 8 in the coming weeks.

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  3. My children and I receive a housing voucher and we are grateful to have it we live in a nice neighborhood in a nice home and our neighbors have come to love us and we love them we don't destroy anything I keep a clean home and property despite having multiple mental illnesses and a son with serious behavioral problems. our neighborhood is all middle class and even thou our neighbors know that we have a housing voucher and we don't have much money they don't judge us based on how we pay for our house they judge usbased on how we live and conduct our lives. just try to understand that not all poor people are bad just like not all rich people are good

  4. Rrosemary this is typical of a liberal...blame blame blame! This is a bunch of crap!

  5. My neighborhood used to be a premiere location... that is until the apartment complex across the street became government subsidized. The police are called there constantly- drugs, violence and many abusive single mothers, their ill-behaved children and disgusting boyfriends. (Just had to call the cops last night because some guy was strangling his girlfriend). This complex is in the middle of a nice family-oriented neighborhood with teachers, librarians, nurses and business owners; and it has devalued every single-family home that surrounds it. There is constant screaming & yelling, loud rap music, cursing (MF this/MF that) and the way they treat their children is absolutely disgusting. I am trying to be vigilant and contact Children Services, the local police and my neighbors but plan on moving next summer. I refuse tolerate not being able to peacefully play with my kids in the backyard anymore! (and yes, I realize this makes the problem worse but I do not want my kids exposed to this!)

  6. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. There are many people going through a similar situation with Section 8 voucher recipients in their neighborhood and they have difficulty finding sources of information to help them. Your comment will be featured on the home page of this website on Monday, July 22, 2013. Look for my detailed response with advice on how people with nuisance Section 8 neighbors can garner support so they don't have to deal with this problem alone.


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