These aren’t the projects in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood that my family moved into when I was nine years old. They are somewhere in Roxbury, though, according to Google Images. I couldn’t find a picture of Charlame Courts, near Blue Hill Ave, the main Roxbury Branch library, and the YMCA.
I had a great time in the projects. We were one of just a few white families, and after the few inevitable first fights, we were welcome there. I learned to jump rope Double Dutch, roller skate, and play Hopscotch and jacks. We also flipped and traded baseball cards, and conducted gigantic, lengthy games of Kick the Can (I’m pretty old, I guess!), stick ball, and Hide and Seek. I had a best friend and we were got to eat candy and watch TV a lot more than my parents wanted us to. We listened to Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie at home and Motown everywhere else.
At least a few decades later, I find myself in the projects again.
I’m lucky when it comes to projects. Charlame Court had just been built when we moved in, and the projects I live in now have more or less also just been built. Well, sort of.
It’s a real New Mexico story. This is a state that has a lot going for it, but in terms of political corruption, you might as well stay in Chicago. And if you move here from Chicago, you’ll feel right at home ( politically, that is).
This is the pleasant project in which I now reside – yes, I’m poor enough and lucky enough to qualify. Three-quarters of this town is. Five years ago, the private company that ran it re a contract with HUD had allowed it to degenerate into such a state that all but three apartments had been condemned. The company just left it alone, collected rents, and ran it into the ground – on purpose, of course.
The new company rehabbed the whole thing, and did a dandy job. However, in spite of all the HUD paperwork, the HUD logo on a sign in front, and the huge HUD subsidies that made the whole thing possible, when it’s time to pay the rent, or lodge a complaint, you’s never know HUD has a thing to do with any of the town’s housing projects.
That’s what the Housing Authority will tell you.
Complaints are all sent to them. There’s no information at all about the many protections and rights afforded HUD residents.
For example, you can’t just evict someone from HUD housing. I mean you can, of course, but it’s no landlord’s picnic. I’ve spoken to dozens of residents, all of whom believe that a sign from the Housing Authority on your door means you can be evicted in three days. A lot of the residents have little kids, are elderly and frail and/or disabled. Many have very limited English language skills. All are poor, period.
Sure, its nice to have a decent, affordable place to live. In fact, it’s a right: the right of every resident here and the right of every human being everywhere.
It’s just crummy that no matter where you go, poor people still get the shaft.
I’ve made it my business to tell every old lady and rowdy teenager, in Spanish and in English, that if they get a three day eviction sign on their door, there’s another number to call – call HUD!
I’ve got to run now – I hear the rustle of an eviction notice – the one for troublemakers – heading straight for my door.