Monday, November 21, 2011

A Section 8 debate: When poverty moves in


Wrestling with doubts about the Section 8 folk made it clear — these days, black unity is a cherished ideal rather than the fact of life that it used to be.

In my Inglewood neighborhood, we always tend to keep an eye out for trouble. But few things have occasioned more hand-wringing than the recent arrival of a family whose rent is subsidized by the federal program known as Section 8.

"Oh, Lord," said one neighbor, a stoic, civic-minded, churchgoing woman who looked more unsettled than I'd ever seen her. "Here we go." Another neighbor who is also religious and similarly unflappable looked deeply troubled. Standing out on her lawn and surveying the newly occupied corner house as if it were haunted, she only shook her head, as if there were no words to describe this turn of events.

Both of my neighbors are active stewards of our block club, and one of its functions is delivering a housewarming gift of a plant or flowers to welcome new residents and send an early message of community. No gift was delivered this time, or even discussed.

While I didn't approve of a rejection of these folks that felt almost preemptive, I also understood. We live in a neighborhood that, though not luxurious, is stable and well maintained, with tidy homes, kids skateboarding, people walking dogs. But it's a mostly black neighborhood, and its residents are keenly aware of how little stands between its aspirations and chaos.

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