When is “Community” Not “Community”?

Renee Glover, CEO of the Atlanta Housing Authority since 1994, has been widely acknowledged for her approach to public housing reform and is recognized nationally as a pioneer of master-planned, mixed-finance, mixed-income residential development in the place of traditional public housing models.

On her blog spot, Lessons Learned, Ms. Glover writes about just that — the lessons learned working to build support and implement a more effective way of addressing the challenges of concentrated urban poverty.

She recently completed two articles – as part of a three-part series – that discuss the philosophy of building community, and the challenges experienced in reforming the traditional notion of housing the low income and homeless populations.

The excerpt below is from the first article of the series, When is “Community” Not “Community”?. Readers are strongly encouraged to read both articles and stay tuned for the third in the series.

The full version of these articles can be found here: http://ahalessonslearned.blogspot.com/2011/01/when-is-community-not-community.html

When is “Community” Not “Community”?

First of a three-part series

The word “community” is inevitably used – and frequently misused – in discussions about government owned and managed public housing. What is “community”? How do you build “community”? When is “community” not “community”?

Those questions touch on much of the work we do at the Atlanta Housing Authority. What I’ll address in this article is our philosophy of “building community.” And, in two subsequent articles I’ll deal with subjects that directly impact “community” – people who fall into a category housing specialists call the “hard to house,” and finally Atlanta’s homeless population. In these three articles, my goal is two-fold: to explain what we are doing in Atlanta, and to dispel some myths associated with our work.

When we began demolishing Atlanta’s obsolete housing projects in 1994, we heard from self-appointed advocates for the residents that we were destroying communities. That sort of phrasing is a conversation-stopper. Who in the world would want to destroy communities? Certainly, not me.

That’s the wrong question, of course. It doesn’t stand up to reason when you define “community.” 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…

Finish reading the full post here:


One Response to “When is “Community” Not “Community”?”

  1. This Week at AHA: Feb. 7-11 | Section 8 Housing Says:

    […] sites as Renee Glover’s most recent posting was posted to the Atlanta Regional Commission site https://landmatters.wordpress.com/2011/02/07/when-is-community-not-community/ and Charlene Crusoe-Ingram’s appointment as our new chief human resources officer appeared in the […]

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