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  Winter 2007


Section 8 is Worth Fighting For

For the African-American community, Section 8 has been a very important way to help people pull themselves up by their bootstraps. I myself can be a witness to this. I live in a HUD-subsidized Section 8 housing project and if there is one thing I have learned from living here, it is that the benefits of Section 8 housing go far beyond just paying cheap rent.

The 57-unit project that I live in has been in existence for 27 years. How do I know? Because I moved into my unit when I was nine months pregnant and gave birth to my son the very next day. So, my son and the project are the same age -- only one day apart. And did you know that there is a HUD Section 8-based project just like this one in every city and town in America? All built in 1979. Thank you, Jimmy Carter! But I digress.

In the last 27 years that I have lived here, I have watched my African-American neighbors put the money they have saved on rent to very good use. Sure, some of them have used this opportunity to run up credit card debt or purchase a brand new Lincoln Navigator but for the most part they have used this opportunity wisely. They have used Section 8 as a springboard to send their children to college.               

Because of Section 8 and HUD and Jimmy Carter, there are now at least 30 more African-American college graduates today that I personally know of than there would have been without Section 8.

As I write this, I'm looking back in my mind's eye, thinking about the 57 families who moved in here back in 1979. Many of us were on welfare. Some of us were on drugs. A couple of prostitutes, a handful of working single mothers desperately struggling to hold things together. Grandparents raising their abandoned grandkids. Battered women running away from brutal spouses. Some homeless types. Redneck meth freaks. We were a sorry lot.

But slowly, surely, all of us started to relax and unwind. With a decent roof over our heads, we began to recover. And to focus. Now three out of four of my children are college graduates. Of the five families who are my immediate neighbors, we have nine college graduates, including one PhD and a girl who lived her dream -- graduating from UCLA with a degree in dance and going on to dance on Broadway in the cast of The Lion King.

Lately, neo-cons in Washington have been systematically attacking HUD-subsidized Section 8 housing programs. "It's just more welfare," they say. "It's just giving our hard-earned money to a bunch of lazy slackers." No. The war-profiteering that is going in in Iraq is "just more welfare". Unlike our tax money that has been "invested" in war profiteering, tax money invested in Section 8 housing, like tax money invested in education and healthcare, is an investment in America's future and the future of our children and grandchildren -- African-American and white alike.

But for African-Americans, Section 8 housing is an especially important issue -- an issue well worth fighting for.

 Jane Stillwater

Berkeley, California.

Reprinted from Black Commentator

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