A new tenants committee has been formed in the city public housing development. Initiated with the help of the St. Helen’s chapter of the city Organizing Project (COP) the committee is quickly gaining support from public housing residents and concerned community activists.
Ethel Malone, a resident of the Church District for eight years, is President of the committee, which is committed to returning City Gardens and Annex to a safe, clean, habitable area in which to live and raise a family.
This is no easy task. The Housing Authority, many tenants charge, has for years been neglected at funding time, besieged with mediocre, uncaring administrators, and is an easy victim of negative publicity often attributed to public housing. Although that publicity often focuses on the drugs, crime, unemployment, and neglect that plague a visible minority at City Gardens, the working poor, law-abiding single parents with few options beyond public assistance, is the non-visible majority who live in public housing.
Julia Chambers lives in an apartment on Oak Street. She has lived in the same apartment with her daughter and two sons for 12 years — a small, two bedrooms lower unit in the middle of the building.
The living room rug is soaking wet from a leak in the window. Her bedroom ceiling leaks from the boarded-up apartment upstairs, onto the floor and sometimes on her bed. Somebody has punched a hole in the wall next to the front door through which you can see the adjoining stairwell.
The walls throughout the apartment are peeling and stained. Plaster around the front door is crumbling. Door panels are delaminating and falling apart with age.
Chambers and her boys are willing to paint the apartment themselves if the Housing Authority would simply supply the paint. But there’s not much use in painting a leaking ceiling. Chambers has been asking to move Into the three bedroom apartment – currently boarded up -at the corner of her building, for which she qualifies, but so far she has had no success.
In a neighboring apartment, a steady, fast-dropping leak from the apartment above has completely eroded the sheet-rock over the bathtub, leaving a two-foot square hole in the wall and exposing the bathroom directly to cold outside air. The old bathtub enclosure is severely mildewed and peeling away from the wall. Water-saturated linoleum is peeling off the floor. An ancient electric portable heater, a frightening electrical hazard, provides a little warmth, but can’t do much against even a light wind blowing outside and through the open cavity.