I’ve been hesitant to comment on the public housing demolitions, trying to get my brain around it, trying to get my heart around it. I’ve not been able to do either really. It’s a deep issue. But one theme is emerging above all others:
Don’t depend on the government for housing. As we learned in August of 2005, don’t depend on the government for ANYthing. It’s a losing proposition. Nagin said there was no win-win situation. The Chicory says for the residents, it’s a lose-lose situation.
One image intended to sway people to a particular viewpoint, to elicit sympathy for the residents, has managed to solidify my thoughts on the subject.
‘these are our homes’
I am assuming the photo was meant to suggest that many people view public housing units as eyesores and fail to realize within them are communities and homes. What I took from it is an amazement that anyone would consider such places homes. What the sign says to me is public housing is a failure. The moment someone considers the government to be their caretaker is the moment they have lost their sense of worth. I am open to debate on this. But I will need an answer as to why the entire anti-demolition movement isn’t being geared toward educating and empowering the displaced residents rather than getting them back into the situation (dependent on the government) that has impoverished them for decades?
It’s not all the government’s fault either. Public housing’s intent was to give someone a place to get back on their feet. Not a home, but housing. The very fact that it has now been identified as a community and a home shows precisely why it has failed to lift up the poor. It has sustained and enabled them, kept them in a position where they are dependent on the government to provide their basic human needs. The government has tendency not to give a damn about poor people’s needs, or at least to give as little a damn as possible. So why fight to put people back in a situation where they are dependent on it?
Perhaps if some time over the last four decades, evidence has been shown to suggest that the prolonged habitation by families in public housing has led to an increase in education and income by those families, I could get behind the debate and fight the demolitions. It would be a case of not fixing what isn’t broken. It IS broken. The decline of New Orleans began and has endured along with the rise in public housing.
I know what some might say, “What should we do? Throw them out on the street?” No. But there has to be a shift in strategy. With less taxes coming in and more public money going out, it doesn’t take an arithmetic major to figure out that the situation is stagnant. Also, no money for education. No money for education. No money for education. No money for education x 10,000.
Education, that’s a project I could get behind. Get organized around that. Push for that. I’ll be there.
I saw another photo that claimed housing as being a basic human right. This further drove me away from the protesters. It’s a responsibility isn’t it? I understand the situation many people find themselves in. I understand the various circumstances that can lead to someone finding themselves homeless. What I can’t understand is the point one reaches when they feel as though the government has a responsibility to provide them housing when they don’t accept that responsibility themselves. The government is an uncaring, globular institution which can be swayed in many different directions and will often leave its dependents without roofs over their heads. People of all classes should be strongly encouraged to become independent of it.
Like I said at the beginning, these are thoughts that I have arrived at after some consideration. I am wide open for retorts or other views. I am not putting myself in a position of understanding what it is like to live in public housing. I am not one of those who thinks people “want to live there.” I am not wanting to see the residents of public housing driven out of New Orleans. I just hope that the ultimate conclusion for everyone involved is to see the end of public housing. That has to be the goal.