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

Aug 25, 2013

PART 4 OF SECTION 8 TROUBLE: WHETHER TO MOVE OUT


PART 4:  IMPROVED STRATEGIES 

By Rosemary Reeves


If you missed the first three parts of this series, click on the links below:


This week, we explore the consequences of Lancaster’s failed “War on Section 8” and consider improved strategies for dealing with problem Section 8 tenants.  This part in the series gives more suggestions for your personal strategy.  
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In light of a Federal Fair Housing Lawsuit filed by the NAACP, The Community Action League (TCAL) and three Section 8 residents, the City of Lancaster opted to reach a settlement.  According to an article in the Antelope Valley Times dated October 10, 2012 by M. Dilworth, Lancaster Resolves Section 8 Lawsuit, Both Sides to Form Committee, the terms of the settlement were as follows:

·      Lancaster agrees to abide by all federal, state and local laws requiring fair housing opportunities for all people regardless of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin or source of income. 

    City officials will not convey a message that Section 8 tenants are not welcome in the city because of their race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin or source of income.

·      The city will post a statement on its official website and in city offices stating that Lancaster is committed to fair housing opportunities for all citizens, regardless of race, religion, familial status or source of income.

Also as part of the settlement, the city had to create a “community working group” consisting of a seven member committee whose members were to include the mayor and community leaders appointed by Parris, the NAACP and TCAL.  The NAACP and TCAL, both special interest groups, now had the power to control the community’s quality of life by dictating public policy within the city of Lancaster as it pertained to fair housing, Section 8 and neighborhood safety.

NAACP’S ABSURD IDEA OF NEIGHBORHOOD SAFETY

While legal action was justified, the end result of putting special interests in charge of neighborhood safety opened the door to further ineptitude.  Humbled by the lawsuit, Mayor Parris made a complete about face, suddenly siding with the agenda of the special interest groups.  Their bazaar idea of increasing neighborhood safety was to expunge the felony convictions of young criminals.  Putting them in the criminal justice system was “going to turn them ugly,” Parris stated.  Having a felony conviction on their record was a barrier to employment, so the remedy for rising crime rates was to be lenient on young people who commit crimes.  

Because the goal of the NAACP and TCAL was to protect the rights of Section 8 tenants against a bigoted public, impartiality became impossible.  Things had gone in the opposite direction, favoring the Section 8 tenants over the concerns of mainstream citizens.  The special interest groups were likely to increase “white flight” from Lancaster through their disregard for the public welfare and their failure to address the pressing issue of neighborhood decline due to Section 8.  Furthermore, allowing parties involved in the lawsuit to appoint members of the committee seemed to me to be a highly questionable tactic.  The moral of the story is that it doesn’t pay to leave yourself or your organization open to accusations of prejudice.  It is likely to backfire.

HOW TO GET ACCESS TO ELECTED OFFICIALS

When trying to solve your neighborhood’s Section 8 nuisance neighbor problem using a timeline, never lose sight of your progress.  Keep a notebook or diary or write notes on a calendar indicating what actions you have taken so far, no matter how small.  Make sure you record the dates.  Keep a rolodex with the names and contact information of people and organizations you have been in touch with.  Anytime you feel discouraged, look at the records you have been keeping and this will encourage you to move forward.
 
If you are able, try to become a member of your local civic group.  Many times, local politicians will speak before neighborhood groups about pressing issues in their area.  As a member, this will give you access to the political figures in your city or town.  If you cannot join for whatever reason, as a resident of the neighborhood you can usually still attend.  This will give you an opportunity to ask questions of the public officials who speak before the group.  Convey the neighborhood’s problem with the nuisance Section 8 tenant and let the elected official know the address of the Section 8 property.  Be aware of the words you use when speaking and your tone of voice.  Make sure you adhere to the same rules of appropriateness as explained in Part 2 of this series so your problem may be judged by the listener as credible and important.

A lot of neighborhood groups have websites nowadays on which they feature a calendar of events.  Check the calendar once a week to keep abreast of when public officials are speaking before the group. 

If you are able to join the local civic group, at some point you may suggest that the organization appoint an “Officer of Information for Section 8 Issues” whose function it is to gather facts about the Section 8 program for the benefit of the organization’s members.  This go-to person will do research online or email the local housing authority to get answers to the group’s questions about the Section 8 program.  Ideally, nominate yourself for this position.  

If you can’t become a member of the group but have a computer at home, try gathering some Section 8 facts in your spare time, tell the civic group they can email their questions to you and email them back the answers you’ve found.  This will make you invaluable to their organization and they will no doubt pass your name onto some influential people.  

Next:  Improved Strategies for the Whole Neighborhood 

RELATED STORIES:  

Part 5:  Homeowners vs. Housing Authority Equals David and Goliath

SOURCE:  
 
Lancaster Resolves Section 8 Lawsuit, Both Sides to Form Committee, Antelope Valley Times, October 10, 2012 by M. Dilworth

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