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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

AHA's Renee Glover blogs about "community"

AHA Executive Director Renee Glover
  • CL File
  • AHA Executive Director Renee Glover
Since the demolition of Atlanta's housing projects began back in '94, the Atlanta Housing Authority has been criticized — mostly by residents and former residents of the complexes being razed — for, in effect, destroying communities.

Yesterday, AHA Executive Director Renee Glover posted the first in a series of three essays explaining and defending AHA's philosophy for building communities by destroying the projects — and to "dispel some myths about [AHA's] work."

Glover's contention is basically that the projects didn't qualify as communities:

The so-called community in housing projects was the offshoot of failed public policies. From transitional housing for people looking to rebuild their lives, public housing projects devolved into housing of last resort, inescapable prisons of concentrated poverty. The ills that accompany such poisonous levels of poverty and devastatingly low expectations undermined any civility and any real community in the projects. Community is not achievable when your life and your children's lives are in danger on a daily basis. You cannot retain a sense of hopefulness when you know your child is attending schools at the bottom of achievement rankings. You cannot maintain respect when the expectations are so low that virtually any behavior is tolerated. You cannot have community when there are no quality grocery stores and retailers within a reasonable distance. You cannot build community when the strain and stress of the living conditions in the projects means a disproportionately large number of the residents will have more illnesses, more mental problems and earlier deaths than the larger population.

She goes on to say that AHA has simply "replaced" those environs with healthier ones that can actually be defined as "communities."

A lingering question, however, is whether or not all of the displaced residents of Atlanta's housing projects found a place in the supposedly new-and-improved public housing model that's emerged in the post-projects era.

According to Atlanta Progressive News, Councilman Ivory Young requested from AHA data on the whereabouts of displaced residents at yesterday's Community Development/Human Resources Committee meeting. He said:

"I'd be interested to know how many of those in that category — the total population, the numbers of folks inside those developments, that successfully found alternative housing, and then second, those who just were successful in getting the voucher and then were supported, may not have necessarily found permanent housing, but were given a voucher to find housing. Ideally, I'm interested to know how many, if any, fell through the cracks as far as in this transition."

As the APN article points out, there are a few independent studies being conducted about the whereabouts and well-being of former residents of the projects — including a long-term study by GSU's Sociology Department — so it will be enlightening to see whether AHA's figures jibe with researchers.'

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