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Monday, June 30, 2008

American Murder Mystery

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Why is crime rising in so many American cities? The answer implicates one of the
most celebrated antipoverty programs of recent decades.

American Murder Mystery

To get to the Old Allen police station in North Memphis, you have to drive all the way to
the end of a quiet suburban road until it turns country. Hidden by six acres of woods,the station seems to be the kind of place that might concern itself mainly with lost dogs, or maybe the misuse of hunting licenses. But it isn’t. Not anymore. As Lieutenant Doug Barnes waited for me to arrive one night for a tour of his beat, he had a smoke and listened for shots.
He counted eight, none meant for buck. “Nothing unusual for a Tuesday,” he told me.
Barnes is white, middle-aged, and, like many veteran cops, looks powerful without being fit.
He grew up four miles from the station during the 1960s, he said, back when middle-class
whites lived peacefully alongside both city elites and working-class African Americans.

After the 1968 riots, Barnes’s father taught him the word curfew and reminded him to lock the
doors. Still, the place remained, until about 10 years ago, a pretty safe neighborhood where
you could play outside with a ball or a dog. But as he considered more-recent times, his
nostalgia gave way to something darker. “I have never been so disheartened,” he said.
He remembers when the ground began to shift beneath him. He was working as an investigator throughout the city, looking into homicides and major crimes. Most of his work was downtown. One day in 1997, he got a call to check out a dead car that someone had rolled up onto the side of the interstate, on the way to the northern suburbs. The car “looked like Swiss cheese,” he said, with 40 or 50 bullet holes in it and blood all over the seats. Barnes
started investigating. He located one corpse in the woods nearby and another, which had been
shoved out a car door, in the parking lot of a hospital a few miles away. He found a
neighborhood witness, who gave up everything but the killers’ names. Two weeks later, he got
another call about an abandoned car. This time the body was inside. “It was my witness,” he
recalled, “deader than a mackerel.”
At this point, he still thought of the stretch of Memphis where he’d grown up as “quiet as all
get-out”; the only place you’d see cruisers congregated was in the Safeway parking lot, where
churchgoing cops held choir practice before going out for drinks. But by 2000, all of that had changed. Once-quiet apartment complexes full of young families “suddenly started turning hot on us.” Instead of the occasional break-in, Barnes was getting calls about armed robberies,gunshots in the hallways, drug dealers roughing up their neighbors. A gang war ripped
through the neighborhood. “We thought, What the hell is going on here?” A gang war! In
North Memphis! “All of a sudden it was a damn war zone,” he said.
As we drove around his beat, this new suburban warfare was not so easy to make out. We passed by the city zoo and Rhodes College, a serene-looking campus on a hill. We passed by plenty of quiet streets lined with ranch houses, not fancy but not falling down, either.

Then Barnes began to narrate, street by street, getting more animated and bitter by the block.
Here was the perfectly pleasant-looking Maplewood Avenue, where the old azaleas were just
starting to bloom and the local cops were trying to weed out the Chicago drug connection.
Farther down the avenue, two households flew American flags, and a third was known for
manufacturing “cheese,” a particularly potent form of powdered heroin. The Hollywood
branch of the local library, long famous for its children’s room, was now also renowned for the
time thugs stole $1,800 there from a Girl Scout who’d been collecting cookie funds. Finally we
came to a tidy brick complex called Goodwill Village, where Barnes had recently chased down
some gang members who’d been taking turns having sex with a new female recruit. As we
closed in on midnight, Barnes’s beat began to feel like the setting of a David Lynch movie,
where every backyard and cul-de-sac could double as a place to hide a body. Or like a
suburban remake of Taxi Driver, with Barnes as the new Travis Bickle. “I’m like a zookeeper
now,” said Barnes. “I hold the key, and my job right now is to protect the people from all the
On September 27, 2007, a headline in The Commercial Appeal, the city’s biggest newspaper,
announced a dubious honor: “Memphis Leads U.S. in Violent Crime.” Local precincts had
been seeing their internal numbers for homicide, rape, aggravated assault, and robbery tick up
since the late 1990s, starting around the time Barnes saw the first dead car. By 2005, a
criminologist closely tracking those numbers was describing the pattern as a crime explosion.
In May of 2007, a woman from upscale Chickasaw Gardens was raped by two men, at
gunpoint; the assailants had followed her and her son home one afternoon. Outraged
residents formed Citizens Against Crime and lobbied the statehouse for tougher gun laws.
“People are concerned for their lives, frankly,” said one county commissioner, summarizing
the city’s mood. This March, a man murdered six people, including two young children, in a
house a few miles south of Old Allen Station.

Falling crime rates have been one of the great American success stories of the past 15 years.
New York and Los Angeles, once the twin capitals of violent crime, have calmed down
significantly, as have most other big cities. Criminologists still debate why: the crack war
petered out, new policing tactics worked, the economy improved for a long spell. Whatever the
alchemy, crime in New York, for instance, is now so low that local prison guards are worried
about unemployment.
Lately, though, a new and unexpected pattern has emerged, taking criminologists by surprise.
While crime rates in large cities stayed flat, homicide rates in many midsize cities (with
populations of between 500,000 and 1 million) began increasing, sometimes by as much as
20 percent a year. In 2006, the Police Executive Research Forum, a national police group
surveying cities from coast to coast, concluded in a report called “A Gathering Storm” that this might represent “the front end … of an epidemic of violence not seen for years.” The leaders of
the group, which is made up of police chiefs and sheriffs, theorized about what might be
spurring the latest crime wave: the spread of gangs, the masses of offenders coming out of prison, methamphetamines. But mostly they puzzled over the bleak new landscape. According
to FBI data, America’s most dangerous spots are now places where Martin Scorsese would
never think of staging a shoot-out—Florence, South Carolina; Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North
Carolina; Kansas City, Missouri; Reading, Pennsylvania; Orlando, Florida; Memphis,

Memphis has always been associated with some amount of violence. But why has Elvis’s
hometown turned into America’s new South Bronx? Barnes thinks he knows one big part of
the answer, as does the city’s chief of police. A handful of local criminologists and social
scientists think they can explain it, too. But it’s a dismal answer, one that city leaders have
made clear they don’t want to hear. It’s an answer that offers up racial stereotypes to fearful
whites in a city trying to move beyond racial tensions. Ultimately, it reaches beyond crime and implicates one of the most ambitious antipoverty programs of recent decades.
arly every Thursday, Richard Janikowski drives to Memphis’s Airways Station for the
morning meeting of police precinct commanders. Janikowski used to teach law and
semiotics, and he still sometimes floats on a higher plane; he walks slowly, speaks in a nasal
voice, and quotes from policy books. But at this point in his career, he is basically an honorary
cop. A criminologist with the University of Memphis, Janikowski has established an unusually
close relationship with the city police department. From the police chief to the beat cop,
everyone knows him as “Dr. J,” or “GQ” if he’s wearing his nice suit. When his researchers are
looking for him, they can often find him outside the building, having a smoke with someone in
One Thursday in March, I sat in on the morning meeting. About 100 people—commanders,
beat cops, researchers, and a city councilman—gathered in a sterile conference room with a
projector up front. The session had none of the raucous air of precinct meetings you see on
cop shows. Nobody was making crude jokes or bragging about the latest run-in with the hood

One by one, the precinct commanders presented crime and arrest statistics in their wards.
They broke the information down into neat bar graphs—type of crime, four-week comparison,
shifting hot spots. Thanks to Janikowski’s influence, the commanders sounded more like
policy wonks than police. “It used to be the criminal element was more confined,” said Larry
Godwin, the police chief. “Now it’s all spread out. They might hit one area today and another
tomorrow. We have to take a sophisticated look on a daily, hourly basis, or we might never get
leverage on it.” For a police department facing a volatile situation, the bar graphs imposed
some semblance of order.

Janikowski began working with the police department in 1997, the same year that Barnes saw
the car with the bullet holes. He initially consulted on a program to reduce sexual assaults
citywide and quickly made himself useful. He mapped all the incidents and noticed a pattern:
many assaults happened outside convenience stores, to women using pay phones that were
hidden from view. The police asked store owners to move the phones inside, and the number
of assaults fell significantly.
About five years ago, Janikowski embarked on a more ambitious project. He’d built up enough
trust with the police to get them to send him daily crime and arrest reports, including
addresses and types of crime. He began mapping all violent and property crimes, block by
block, across the city. “These cops on the streets were saying that crime patterns are
changing,” he said, so he wanted to look into it.
When his map was complete, a clear if strangely shaped pattern emerged: Wait a minute, he
recalled thinking. I see this bunny rabbit coming up. People are going to accuse me of being
on shrooms! The inner city, where crime used to be concentrated, was now clean. But
everywhere else looked much worse: arrests had skyrocketed along two corridors north and
west of the central city (the bunny rabbit’s ears) and along one in the southeast (the tail). Hot
spots had proliferated since the mid-1990s, and little islands of crime had sprung up where
none had existed before, dotting the map all around the city.
Janikowski might not have managed to pinpoint the cause of this pattern if he hadn’t been
married to Phyllis Betts, a housing expert at the University of Memphis. Betts and Janikowski
have two dogs, three cats, and no kids; they both tend to bring their work home with them.
Betts had been evaluating the impact of one of the city government’s most ambitious
initiatives: the demolition of the city’s public-housing projects, as part of a nationwide
experiment to free the poor from the destructive effects of concentrated poverty. Memphis
demolished its first project in 1997. The city gave former residents federal “Section8” rentsubsidy
vouchers and encouraged them to move out to new neighborhoods. Two more waves
of demolition followed over the next nine years, dispersing tens of thousands of poor people
into the wider metro community.
If police departments are usually stingy with their information, housing departments are even
more so. Getting addresses of Section 8 holders is difficult, because the departments want to
protect the residents’ privacy. Betts, however, helps the city track where the former residents
of public housing have moved. Over time, she and Janikowski realized that they were doing
their fieldwork in the same neighborhoods.
About six months ago, they decided to put a hunch to the test. Janikowski merged his computer map of crime patterns with Betts’s map of Section8 rentals. Where Janikowski saw a
bunny rabbit, Betts saw a sideways horseshoe (“He has a better imagination,” she said).
Otherwise, the match was near-perfect. On the merged map, dense violent-crime areas are
shaded dark blue, and Section8 addresses are represented by little red dots. All of the darkblue
areas are covered in little red dots, like bursts of gunfire. The rest of the city has almost
no dots.
Betts remembers her discomfort as she looked at the map. The couple had been musing about
the connection for months, but they were amazed—and deflated—to see how perfectly the two
data sets fit together. She knew right away that this would be a “hard thing to say or write.”
Nobody in the antipoverty community and nobody in city leadership was going to welcome the
news that the noble experiment that they’d been engaged in for the past decade had been
bringing the city down, in ways they’d never expected. But the connection was too obvious to
ignore, and Betts and Janikowski figured that the same thing must be happening all around
the country. Eventually, they thought, they’d find other researchers who connected the dots
the way they had, and then maybe they could get city leaders, and even national leaders, to

etts’s office is filled with books about knocking down the projects, an effort
considered by fellow housing experts to be their great contribution to the civilrights
movement. The work grew out of a long history of white resistance to blacks’
moving out of what used to be called the ghetto. During much of the 20th century, white
people used bombs and mobs to keep black people out of their neighborhoods. In 1949 in
Chicago, a rumor that a black family was moving onto a white block prompted a riot that
grew to 10,000 people in four days. “Americans had been treating blacks seeking housing
outside the ghetto not much better than … [the] cook treated the dog who sought a crust
of bread,” wrote the ACLU lawyer and fair-housing advocate Alexander Polikoff in his
book Waiting for Gautreaux.
Polikoff is a hero to Betts and many of her colleagues. In August 1966, he filed two related
class-action suits against the Chicago Housing Authority and the U.S. Department of
Housing and Urban Development, on behalf of a woman named Dorothy Gautreaux and
other tenants. Gautreaux wanted to leave the ghetto, but the CHA offered housing only in
neighborhoods just like hers. Polikoff became notorious in the Chicago suburbs; one
community group, he wrote, awarded him a gold-plated pooper-scooper “to clean up all
the shit” he wanted to bring into the neighborhood. A decade later, he argued the case
before the Supreme Court and won. Legal scholars today often compare the case’s
significance to that of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.
In 1976, letters went out to 200 randomly selected families among the 44,000 living in
Chicago public housing, asking whether they wanted to move out to the suburbs. A
counselor went around the projects explaining the new Section8 program, in which
tenants would pay 25percent of their income for rent and the government would pay the
rest, up to a certain limit. Many residents seemed dubious. They asked how far away these
places were, how they would get there, whether the white people would let them in.
But the counselors persevered and eventually got people excited about the idea. The flyers
they mailed out featured a few stanzas of a Gwendolyn Brooks poem, “The Ballad of
Rudolph Reed.”
I am not hungry for berries
I am not hungry for bread
But hungry hungry for a house
Where at night a man in bed
May never hear the plaster
Stir as if in pain.
May never hear the roaches
Falling like fat rain.
(This was a risky decision. One later stanza, omitted from the flyers, reads:
By the time he had hurt his fourth white man
Rudolph Reed was dead.
His neighbors gathered and kicked his corpse
“Nigger—” his neighbors said.)
Starting in 1977, in what became known as the Gautreaux program, hundreds of families
relocated to suburban neighborhoods—most of them about 25miles from the ghetto, with
very low poverty rates and good public schools. The authorities had screened the families
carefully, inspecting their apartments and checking for good credit histories. They didn’t
offer the vouchers to families with more than five children, or to those that were
indifferent to leaving the projects. They were looking for families “seeking a healthy
environment, good schools and an opportunity to live in a safe and decent home.”
A well-known Gautreaux study, released in 1991, showed spectacular results. The
sociologist James Rosenbaum at Northwestern University had followed 114 families who
had moved to the suburbs, although only 68 were still cooperating by the time he released
the study. Compared to former public-housing residents who’d stayed within the city, the
suburban dwellers were four times as likely to finish high school, twice as likely to attend
college, and more likely to be employed. Newsweek called the program “stunning” and
said the project renewed “one’s faith in the struggle.” In a glowing segment, a 60 Minutes
reporter asked one Gautreaux boy what he wanted to be when he grew up. “I haven’t
really made up my mind,” the boy said. “Construction worker, architect, anesthesiologist.”
Another child’s mother declared it “the end of poverty” for her family.
In 1992, 7-year-old Dantrell Davis from the Cabrini-Green project was walking to school,
holding his mother’s hand, when a stray bullet killed him. The hand-holding detail
seemed to stir the city in a way that none of the other murder stories coming out of the
high-rises ever had. “Tear down the high rises,” demanded an editorial in the Chicago
Tribune, while that boy’s image “burns in our civic memory.”
HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros was receptive to the idea. He spent a few nights in
Chicago’s infamous Robert Taylor Homes and subsequently spoke about “these enclaves
of poverty,” where “drug dealers control the stairwells, where children can’t go outside to
play, where mothers put their infants to bed in bathtubs.” If people could see beyond the
graffitied hallways of these projects, they could get above that way of life, argued the
researchers, and learn to live like their middle-class brothers and sisters. Cisneros floated
the idea of knocking down the projects and moving the residents out into the metro area.
The federal government encouraged the demolitions with a $6.3billion program to
redevelop the old project sites, called HOPE VI, or “Housing Opportunities for People
Everywhere.” The program was launched in the same spirit as Bill Clinton’s national
service initiative—communities working together to “rebuild lives.” One Chicago housing
official mused about “architects and lawyers and bus drivers and people on welfare living
together.” Wrecking balls began hitting the Chicago high-rises in the mid-1990s. Within a
few years, tens of thousands of public-housing residents all over the country were leaving
their apartments. In place of the projects, new developments arose, with fanciful names
like “Jazz on the Boulevard” or “Centennial Place.” In Memphis, the Hurt Village project
was razed to make way for “Uptown Square,” which the local developer Henry Turley
declared would be proof that you could turn the inner city into a “nice place for poor
people” to live. Robert Lipscomb, the dynamic director of the Memphis Housing
Authority, announced, “Memphis is on the move.”
hen the Dixie Homes housing project was demolished, in 2006, a group of
residents moved to a place called Springdale Creek Apartments in North
Memphis, on Doug Barnes’s beat. They were not handpicked, nor part of any study, and
nobody told them to move to a low-poverty neighborhood. Like tens of thousands of
others, they moved because they had to, into a place they could afford. Springdale Creek
is not fancy, but the complex tries to enforce its own quiet order. A sliding black gate separates the row of brick buildings from busy Jackson Avenue, where kids hang out by
the KFC. Leslie Shaw was sold when she heard the phrase gated community mentioned
by the building manager.
When Shaw saw the newly painted white walls, “so fresh and clean,” with no old smudges
from somebody else’s kids, she decided to give away all her furniture. “I didn’t want to
move in here with any garbage from Dixie,” she said. “I said to myself, ‘Might as well start
over.’” She bought a new brown velour couch and a matching loveseat. She bought a
washer and dryer, and a dresser for her 8-year-old grandson, Gerrell, who lives with her.
The only thing she kept was a bookshelf, to hold the paperbacks coming monthly from the
book club she’d decided to join.
Shaw is 11 years crack-free and, at 47, eager to take advantage of every free program that
comes her way—a leadership class, Windows Vista training, a citizen police course, a
writing workshop. What drove her—“I got to be honest with you”—was proving her
middle-class sisters and brother, “who didn’t think I’d get above it,” wrong. Just after she
moved in, one sister came over and said, “This is nice. I thought they would put you back
in the projects or something.”

I visited Shaw in February, about a year and a half after she’d moved in. The view outside
her first-floor window was still pretty nice—no junk littered the front lawn and few
apartments stood vacant. But slowly, she told me, Springdale Creek has started to feel less
like a suburban paradise and more like Dixie Homes. Neighborhood boys often kick open
the gate or break the keypad. Many nights they just randomly press phone numbers until
someone lets them in. The gate’s main use seems to be as a sort of low-thrills ride for
younger kids whose parents aren’t paying attention. They hang from the gate as it slides
open; a few have gotten their fingers caught and had to be taken to the emergency room.
When Shaw recounts all the bad things that have happened at Springdale Creek, she does
it matter-of-factly (even as a grandma, she says, “I can jump those boys if I have to”). Car
thefts were common at first—Shaw’s neighbor Laura Evans is one of about 10 victims in
the past two years. Thieves have relieved the apartment management company of some of
its computers, extra refrigerators, and spare stoves. A few Dixie boys—sons of one of
Shaw’s friends—were suspected of breaking the windows in vacant apartments. Last year,
somebody hit a pregnant woman in the head with a brick. In the summer, a neighborhood
kid chased his girlfriend’s car, shooting at her as she drove toward the gate; the cops, who
are called in regularly for one reason or another, collected the spent shells on the grass.
“You know, you move from one place to another and you bring the element with you,”
said Evans, who stopped by Shaw’s apartment while I was there. “You got some trying to
make it just like the projects.”
In the afternoon, I visited an older resident from Dixie Homes who lives across the way
from Shaw. Her apartment was dark, blinds drawn, and everyone was watching Maury
Povich. A few minutes after I arrived, we heard a pounding at the door, and a neighbor
rushed in, shouting.
“They just jumped my grandson! That’s my grandson!”
This was 64-year-old Nadine Clark, who’d left Dixie before it got knocked down. Clark
was wearing her navy peacoat, but she had forgotten to put in her teeth. From her pocket
she pulled a .38-caliber pistol, which was the only thing that glinted in the room besides
the TV.
“There’s 10 of them! And I’m gonna go fuck them up! That’s my grandson! They took him
away in an ambulance!”
Nobody in the house got excited. They kept their eyes on Maury Povich, where the
audience was booing a kid who looked just like the thug who’d shot up his girlfriend’s car.

“She’ll calm down,” someone said, and after a few minutes, Clark left. I drove down to
Northside High, a few blocks away, where the grandson had gotten beaten up. TV crews
and local reporters were already gathered outside the school, and a news chopper hovered
overhead. There had been two school shootings in the neighborhood that month, and any
fresh incidents made big news.
Clark’s grandson is named Unique, although everyone calls him Neek. Outside school that
day, Neek had been a victim of one of the many strange dynamics of the new urban
suburbia. Neek is tall and quiet and doesn’t rush to change out of his white polo shirt and
blue khakis after school. He spends most of his afternoons in the house, watching TV or
doing his homework.
Neek’s middle-class habits have made him, unwittingly, a perfect target for homegrown
gangs. Gang leaders, cut loose from the housing projects, have adapted their recruiting
efforts and operations to their new setting. Lately, they’ve been going after “smart,
intelligent, go-to-college-looking kid[s], without gold teeth and medallions,” said
Sergeant Lambert Ross, an investigator with the Memphis Police. Clean-cut kids serve the
same function as American recruits for al-Qaeda: they become the respectable front men.
If a gang member gets pulled over with guns or drugs, he can hand them to the college
boy, who has no prior record. The college boy, raised outside the projects, might be
dreaming of being the next 50 Cent, or might be too intimidated not to join. Ross told me
that his latest batch of arrests involved several kids from two-car-garage families.
Neek generally stayed away from gang types, so some older kids beat him with bats. No
one is sure whether a gun was fired. As these things go, he got off easy. He was treated at
the emergency room and went back to school after a few days.


In the most literal sense, the national effort to diffuse
poverty has succeeded. Since 1990, the number of
Americans living in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty—
meaning that at least 40 percent of households are below the
federal poverty level—has declined by 24percent. But this
doesn’t tell the whole story. Recently, the housing expert
George Galster, of Wayne State University, analyzed the shifts
in urban poverty and published his results in a paper called “A Cautionary Tale.” While
fewer Americans live in high-poverty neighborhoods, increasing numbers now live in
places with “moderate” poverty rates, meaning rates of 20 to 40 percent. This pattern is
not necessarily better, either for poor people trying to break away from bad
neighborhoods or for cities, Galster explains. His paper compares two scenarios: a city
split into high-poverty and low-poverty areas, and a city dominated by median-poverty
ones. The latter arrangement is likely to produce more bad neighborhoods and more total
crime, he concludes, based on a computer model of how social dysfunction spreads.
Studies show that recipients of Section8 vouchers have tended to choose moderately poor
neighborhoods that were already on the decline, not low-poverty neighborhoods. One
recent study publicized by HUD warned that policy makers should lower their
expectations, because voucher recipients seemed not to be spreading out, as they had
hoped, but clustering together. Galster theorizes that every neighborhood has its tipping
point—a threshold well below a 40 percent poverty rate—beyond which crime explodes
and other severe social problems set in. Pushing a greater number of neighborhoods past
that tipping point is likely to produce more total crime. In 2003, the Brookings Institution
published a list of the 15 cities where the number of high-poverty neighborhoods had
declined the most. In recent years, most of those cities have also shown up as among the criminologist at the University of South Carolina, issued a report in 2006 showing that
serious gang activity had spread to eight suburban counties around the state, including
Florence County, home to the city of Florence, which was ranked the most violent place in
America the year after Memphis was. In his fieldwork, he said, the police complained of
“migrant gangs” from the housing projects, and many departments seemed wholly
unprepared to respond.
After the first wave of housing-project demolition in Memphis, in 1997, crime spread out,
but did not immediately increase. (It takes time for criminals to make new connections
and to develop “comfort zones,” Janikowski told me.) But in 2005, another wave of
project demolitions pushed the number of people displaced from public housing to well
over 20,000, and crime skyrocketed. Janikowski felt there were deep structural issues
behind the increase, ones that the city was not prepared to handle. Old gangs—the
Gangster Disciples and the LeMoyne Gardens gang—had long since re-formed and gotten
comfortable. Ex-convicts recently released from prison had taken up residence with
girlfriends or wives or families who’d moved to the new neighborhoods. Working-class
people had begun moving out to the suburbs farther east, and more recipients of Section8
vouchers were taking their place. Now many neighborhoods were reaching their tipping
Chaotic new crime patterns in suburbia caught the police off guard. Gang members who’d
moved to North Memphis might now have cousins southeast of the city, allowing them to
target the whole vast area in between and hide out with relatives far from the scene of the
crime. Memphis covers an area as large as New York City, but with one-seventeenth as
many police officers, and a much lower cop-to-citizen ratio. And routine policing is more
difficult in the semi-suburbs. Dealers sell out of fenced-in backyards, not on exposed
street corners. They have cars to escape in, and a landscape to blend into. Shrubbery is a
constant headache for the police; they’ve taken to asking that bushes be cut down so
suspects can’t duck behind them.
began reporting this story because I came across a newspaper article that ranked
cities by crime rate and I was surprised to see Memphis at the very top. At first I
approached the story literally, the same way a cop on a murder case would: here’s the
body, now figure out what happened. But it didn’t take long to realize that in Memphis,
and in city after city, the bodies are just the most visible symptoms of a much deeper
If replacing housing projects with vouchers had achieved its main goal—infusing the poor with middle-class habits—then higher crime rates might be a price worth paying. But
today, social scientists looking back on the whole grand experiment are apt to use words
like baffling and disappointing. A large federal-government study conducted over the
past decade—a follow-up to the highly positive, highly publicized Gautreaux study of
1991—produced results that were “puzzling,” said Susan Popkin of the Urban Institute. In
this study, volunteers were also moved into low-poverty neighborhoods, although they
didn’t move nearly as far as the Gautreaux families. Women reported lower levels of
obesity and depression. But they were no more likely to find jobs. The schools were not
much better, and children were no more likely to stay in them. Girls were less likely to
engage in risky behaviors, and they reported feeling more secure in their new
neighborhoods. But boys were as likely to do drugs and act out, and more likely to get
arrested for property crimes. The best Popkin can say is: “It has not lived up to its
promise. It has not lifted people out of poverty, it has not made them self-sufficient, and it
has left a lot of people behind.”
Researchers have started to look more critically at the Gautreaux results. The sample was
tiny, and the circumstances were ideal. The families who moved to the suburbs were
screened heavily and the vast majority of families who participated in the program didn’t
end up moving, suggesting that those who did were particularly motivated. Even so, the
results were not always sparkling. For instance, while Gautreaux study families who had
moved to the suburbs were more likely to work than a control group who stayed in the
city, they actually worked less than before they had moved. “People were really excited
about it because it seemed to offer something new,” Popkin said. “But in my view, it was
radically oversold.”
Ed Goetz, a housing expert at the University of Minnesota, is creating a database of the
follow-up research at different sites across the country, “to make sense of these very
limited positive outcomes.” On the whole, he says, people don’t consistently report any
health, education, or employment benefits. They are certainly no closer to leaving
poverty. They tend to “feel better about their environments,” meaning they see less
graffiti on the walls and fewer dealers on the streets. But just as strongly, they feel “a
sense of isolation in their new communities.” His most surprising finding, he says, “is that
they miss the old community. For all of its faults, there was a tight network that existed.
So what I’m trying to figure out is: Was this a bad theory of poverty? We were intending
to help people climb out of poverty, but that hasn’t happened at all. Have we
underestimated the role of support networks and overestimated the role of place?”
HOPE VI stands as a bitter footnote to this story. What began as an “I Have a Dream” social crusade has turned into an urban-redevelopment project. Cities fell so hard for the
idea of a new, spiffed-up, gentrified downtown that this vision came to crowd out other
goals. “People ask me if HOPE VI was successful, and I have to say, ‘You mean the
buildings or the people?’” said Laura Harris, a HOPE VI evaluator in Memphis. “It
became seen as a way to get rid of eyesores and attract rich people downtown.” Phyllis
Betts told me that when she was interviewing residents leaving the housing projects, “they
were under the impression they could move into the new developments on site.”
Residents were asked to help name the new developments and consult on the
architectural plans. Yet to move back in, residents had to meet strict criteria: if they were
not seniors, they had to be working, or in school, or on disability. Their children could not
be delinquent in school. Most public-housing residents were scared off by the criteria, or
couldn’t meet them, or else they’d already moved and didn’t want to move again. The new
HOPE VI developments aimed to balance Section8 and market-rate residents, but this
generally hasn’t happened. In Memphis, the rate of former public-housing residents
moving back in is 5 percent.
A few months ago, Harris went to a Sunday-afternoon picnic at Uptown Square, the
development built on the site of the old Hurt Village project, to conduct a survey. The
picnic’s theme was chili cook-off. The white people, mostly young couples, including little
kids and pregnant wives, sat around on Eddie Bauer chairs with beer holders, chatting.
The black people, mostly women with children, were standing awkwardly around the
edges. Harris began asking some of the white people the questions on her survey: Do you
lack health insurance? Have you ever not had enough money to buy medication? One said
to her, “This is so sad. Does anyone ever answer ‘yes’ to these questions?”—Harris’s first
clue that neighbors didn’t talk much across color lines. One of the developers was there
that day surveying the ideal community he’d built, and he was beaming. “Isn’t this great?”
he asked Harris, and she remembers thinking, Are you kidding me? They’re all sitting 20
feet away from each other!
In my visits with former Dixie Homes tenants who’d moved around the city, I came across
the same mix of reactions that researchers had found. The residents who had always been
intent on moving out of Dixie Homes anyway seemed to be thriving; those who’d been
pushed out against their will, which was the vast majority, seemed dislocated and ill at
I met 30-year-old Sheniqua Woodard, a single mother of three who’d been getting her
four-year degree while living at Dixie. She was now working at a city mental-health clinic
and about to start studying toward a master’s degree in special education. She’d moved as far out of the city as she could, to a house with a big backyard. She said, “The fact of being
in my own home? Priceless.”
But I also met La Sasha Rodgers, who was 19 when Dixie was torn down (now she’s 21).
“A lot of people thought it was bad, because they didn’t live there,” she told me. “But it
was like one big family. It felt like home. If I could move back now, the way it was, I
would.” She moved out to a house in South Memphis with her mother, and all the little
cousins and nieces and nephews who drift in during the day. She doesn’t know anyone
else on the block. “It’s just here,” she said about her new house. Rodgers may not see
them right out her window, but she knows that the “same dope dealers, the same junkies”
are just down the block. The threats are no less real, but now they seem distant and dull,
as if she were watching neighborhood life on TV. At Dixie, when there were shots at the
corner store, everyone ran out to see what was happening. Now, “if somebody got shot, we
wouldn’t get up to see.”
Rodgers didn’t finish high school, although she did get her GED, and she’s never had a
job. Still, “I know I have to venture out in the world,” she said, running through her
options: Go back to school? Get a job? Get married? Have a baby? “I want more. I’m so
ready to have my own. I just don’t know how to get it.”

t’s difficult to contemplate solutions to this problem when so few
politicians, civil servants, and academics seem willing to talk about
it—or even to admit that it exists. Janikowski and Betts are in an
awkward position. They are both white academics in a city with many
African American political leaders. Neither of them is a Memphis
native. And they know that their research will fuel the usual NIMBY
paranoia about poor people destroying the suburbs. “We don’t want Memphis to be seen as
the armpit of the nation,” Betts said. “And we don’t want to be the ones responsible for
framing these issues in the wrong way.”
The city’s deep pride about the downtown renaissance makes the issue more sensitive still.
CITY, COOL, CHIC read downtown billboards, beckoning young couples to new apartments.
Developers have built a new eight-block mall and a downtown stadium for the Grizzlies, the
city’s NBA team. In 2003, The Commercial Appeal likened downtown Memphis to a grizzly
bear “rumbling back into the sun.” The city is applying to the federal government for more
funds to knock down the last two housing projects and build more mixed-income
developments, and wouldn’t want to advertise any problems.
Earlier this year, Betts presented her findings to city leaders, including Robert Lipscomb, the
head of the Memphis Housing Authority. From what Lipscomb said to me, he’s still not
moved. “You’ve already marginalized people and told them they have to move out,” he told me
irritably, just as he’s told Betts. “Now you’re saying they moved somewhere else and created
all these problems? That’s a really, really unfair assessment. You’re putting a big burden on
people who have been too burdened already, and to me that’s, quote-unquote, criminal.” To
Lipscomb, what matters is sending people who lived in public housing the message that “they
can be successful, they can go to work and have kids who go to school. They can be self-sufficient and reach for the middle class.”
But Betts doesn’t think this message, alone, will stick, and she gets frustrated when she sees
sensitivity about race or class blocking debate. “You can’t begin to problem-solve until you lay
it out,” she said. “Most of us are not living in these high-crime neighborhoods. And I’m out
there listening to the people who are not committing the crimes, who expected something
better.” The victims, she notes, are seldom white. “There are decent African American
neighborhoods—neighborhoods of choice—that are going down,” she said.
In truth, the victims are constantly shifting. Hardly any Section8 families moved into wealthy
white suburbs. In the early phases, most of the victims were working-class African Americans
who saw their neighborhoods destroyed and had to leave. Now most of them are poor people
like Leslie Shaw, who are trying to do what Lipscomb asks of them and be more self-sufficient.
Which makes sorting out the blame even trickier. Sometimes the victim and the perpetrator
live under the same roof; Shaw’s friend at Springdale Creek wanted a better life for herself and
her family, but she couldn’t keep her sons from getting into trouble. Sometimes they may be
the same person, with conflicting impulses about whether to move forward or go back. In any
case, more than a decade’s worth of experience proves that crossing your fingers and praying
for self-sufficiency is foolish.
So what’s the alternative? Is a strained hope better than no hope at all? “We can’t send people
back to those barricaded institutions, like Escape From New York,” said Betts. “That’s not a
scenario anyone wants to embrace.” Physically redistributing the poor was probably
necessary; generations of them were floundering in the high-rises. But instead of coaching
them and then carefully spreading them out among many more-affluent neighborhoods, most
cities gave them vouchers and told them to move in a rush, with no support.
“People were moved too quickly, without any planning, and without any thought about where
they would live, and how it would affect the families or the places,” complains James
Rosenbaum, the author of the original Gautreaux study. By contrast, years of public debate
preceded welfare reform. States were forced to acknowledge that if they wanted to cut off
benefits, they had to think about job training, child care, broken families. Housing never
became a high-profile issue, so cities skipped that phase.
ot every project was like Cabrini-Green. Dixie Homes was a complex of two- and threestory
brick buildings on grassy plots. It was, by all accounts, claustrophobic, sometimes
badly maintained, and occasionally violent. But to its residents, it was, above all, a community.
Every former resident I spoke to mentioned one thing: the annual Easter-egg hunt.
Demonizing the high-rises has blinded some city officials to what was good and necessary about the projects, and what they ultimately have to find a way to replace: the sense of
belonging, the informal economy, the easy access to social services. And for better or worse,
the fact that the police had the address.
Better policing, better-connected to new residential patterns, is a step in the right direction.
Janikowski believes the chaos can be controlled with information and technology, and he’s
been helping the department improve both for several years. This spring he helped launch a
“real-time crime center,” in the hope of making the department more nimble. Twenty-four
hours a day, technicians plot arrests on giant screens representing the city’s geography, in a
newly built studio reminiscent of CNN’s newsroom. Cops on the dots is the national buzzword
for this kind of information-driven, rapid-response policing, and it has an alluring certainty
about it. The changes seem to be making a difference; recent data show violent-crime rates in
the city beginning to inch down.
In the long view—both Betts and Janikowski agree—better policing is of course not the only
answer. The more fundamental question is the one this social experiment was designed to
address in the first place: What to do about deep poverty and persistent social dysfunction?
Betts’s latest crusade is something called “site-based resident services.” When the projects
came down, the residents lost their public-support system—health clinics, child care, job
training. Memphis’s infant-mortality rate is rising, for example, and Betts is convinced that
has something to do with poor people’s having lost easy access to prenatal care. The services
remained downtown while the clients scattered all over the city, many of them with no
convenient transportation. Along with other nonprofit leaders, Betts is trying to get outreach
centers opened in the outlying neighborhoods, and especially in some of the new, troubled
apartment buildings. She says she’s beginning to hear supportive voices within the city
government. But not enough leaders have acknowledged the new landscape—or admitted that
the projects are gone in name only, and that the city’s middle-class dreams never came true.
nd beyond this, what? The social services Betts is recommending did not lift masses of
people out of poverty in the projects. Perhaps, outside the projects, they will help
people a little more. But perhaps not. The problems of poverty run so deep that we’re unlikely
to know the answer for a generation. Social scientists tracking people who are trying to
improve their lives often talk about a “weathering effect,” the wearing-down that happens as a
lifetime of baggage accumulates. With poor people, the drag is strong, even if they haven’t
lived in poverty for long. Kids who leave poor neighborhoods at a young age still have trouble
keeping up with their peers, studies show. They catch up for a while and then, after a few
years, slip back. Truly escaping poverty seems to require a will as strong as a spy’s: you have to disappear to a strange land, forget where you came from, and ignore the suspicions of
everyone around you. Otherwise, you can easily find yourself right back where you started.
Leslie Shaw is writing a memoir, and it contains more weather than most of us can imagine. At
15, she left home with a boy named Fat, who turned out to be a pimp. She spent the next seven
years being dragged from state to state as a street hooker, robbing johns and eventually
getting addicted to crack. Once, a pimp locked her in his car trunk. Another time, her water
broke in a crack house. This covers only the first few chapters. She works on the memoir
endlessly—revising, dividing the material into different files (one is labeled, simply, “Shit”).
She still has two big sections to go, and many years of her life left to record. Her next big
project is to get this memoir under control, finish it, have it published, and “hope something
good can come out of it,” for herself and the people who read it.
When I last saw Shaw, in March, she had her plan laid out. About seven months earlier, she
had taken in her 2-year-old granddaughter, Casha Mona, for what was supposed to be a
temporary stay. The little girl’s mother was getting her act together in Albuquerque, where
Casha’s father (Shaw’s son) was in prison. Shaw’s plan was to take Casha Mona back to
Albuquerque, then begin a writing workshop at the Renaissance Center in Memphis to get her
memoir into shape. And just before Easter, she’d dropped Casha off, come home, and signed
up for the class. Two days later, she got a call from an aunt in Albuquerque. Casha had
swallowed a few crack rocks at her mother’s house; state officials had put her in foster care.
More weather. Last I spoke to Shaw, she’d bought another round-trip bus ticket to
Albuquerque and was going to get the little girl back.
The writing class would have to wait, or she could do it at night, or … “I’m just going to get on
that bus,” she said, “and pray.”

7:09 PM  
Blogger Nancy Lazaryan said...

Lots of Cookies.
The only way to fix the problem. You can't throw money at it with all kinds of "programs".

People need to re-learn how to live together in a community and take care of each other.

Cookies is a very good start.

8:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was thinking shotguns.

9:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can serve the cookies Nancy while Eric spews out his retarded BS about landlords. Your idea about cookies is about as stupid as the Police opening lemonade stands a few years ago to decrease crime.

9:53 PM  
Blogger Bob said...

from the article-

Memphis has always been associated with some amount of violence. But why has Elvis’s
hometown turned into America’s new South Bronx? Barnes thinks he knows one big part of
the answer, as does the city’s chief of police. A handful of local criminologists and social
scientists think they can explain it, too. But it’s a dismal answer, one that city leaders have
made clear they don’t want to hear. It’s an answer that offers up racial stereotypes to fearful
whites in a city trying to move beyond racial tensions. Ultimately, it reaches beyond crime and implicates one of the most ambitious antipoverty programs of recent decades.

They are talking about section 8.

10:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bob the issue is that they got rid of their PHA. Something you have been advocating as I recall...

"After the first wave of housing-project demolition in Memphis, in 1997, crime spread out,
but did not immediately increase. (It takes time for criminals to make new connections
and to develop “comfort zones,” Janikowski told me.) But in 2005, another wave of
project demolitions pushed the number of people displaced from public housing to well
over 20,000, and crime skyrocketed."

They took 20,000 people out of PHA and left them in the hands of the private market. Something the landlord group would say is a good thing.

Come on, Bob, your coming over to my side sooner or later.

Bill and I have had this talk before the biggest problem with PHA is that they don't have a way to handle the "problem" people.


Chuck Repke

11:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And PHAs not handling the problem people CHuck is one of the reasons that got them sued from what I hear.

Your off base again Chuck. St Paul is not tearing down the projects, but they do it on a smaller scale. They want to chase the problem around from neighborhood to neighborhood rather than deal with it. Thay way everybody gets s turn to be thankful to people like Kathy Lantry and her housing NAZIs......especially at election time.

11:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chuck just told us how he feels.Chuck some people call PHA concrete cages or concrete jungles.What you don't know Chuck is that crime statistics on PHA property aren't included in cities yearly crime reports.If it was you'd see an increase.You elites just don't care when its not in your back yard.You don't care about the people as long as they are in a high rise concrete cage violating eachother.

Chuck your theory of crime going down when government runs it is flawed big time.

Anybody else want to chime in on this one?


8:13 AM  
Blogger Nancy Lazaryan said...

Government is NEVER going to solve "our poverty problems".
Not lemonade stands with the police (government).

People getting to know each other in a neighborhood, helping one another out, and holding everyone accountable.

That is why "small towns" have low crime rates.

Because of COOKIES.
Everyone knows everyone else, is "up on the gossip" and they keep people "in line".

If we had more cookies, we would need less police, less "programs" and less taxes.

Oh, I forgot. We need people to make the cookies and actually bring the cookies around and talk to their neighbors.

Apparently, that takes balls, which are not as easy to find as cookies.

8:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

try that on the east side. You won't get through 1 block before someone beats you up and takes all the cookies.

10:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

" that crime statistics on PHA property aren't included in cities yearly crime reports..."

You know, you couldn't make up this kind of insanity. I mean if someone was to write a book and have crazy people spewing this kind of nonsense an editor would say, nobody is that crazy.

So, here is the facts. I work on the East Side. One of the programs that I run is an effort to reduce auto thefts on my end the East Side. I see the crime stat's for those crime grids all of the time. Included in the area is Roosevelt Homes a PHA housing project.

What in the world would make people believe the silly shit that people think here?


Chuck Repke

10:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have news for you Nancy. The thugs are moving to the small towns too, and they don't want cookies, they want customers to sell their drugs too.

10:44 AM  
Blogger Bob said...

Chuck, I have never advocated getting rid of PHA.

You could not post a single statement I made here that even comes close to such a reference.

Personally, I think PHA does a pretty good job and I suppose it is because of this the city lets them cut some corners concerning code inspections and pulling permits.(I have a story on this subject)

11:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your just talking shit Repke. Those calls are phoned in by normal people to the 911 call center. What about the "secret" call in center they have for PHA crime and the stats they keep as a result of that crime. You can spin all you want Chuck, but don't come here lying about things.

11:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

11:44 time to take your medication again... I think your dose is a little low.

I see the stat's that the East Team Saint Paul police have. They are all of the crimes that they respond to in the area.

Now it may be the case that they haven't responded to all of the reports that come in the triple secret double coded special junior agent office that you run Mr 11:44 on your planet. But they do the best that they can without having your super crime stopping powers.


Chuck Repke

12:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't get smart with me Repke or I'll have to give you a public tounge lashing. It won't be pretty

12:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So is the secret phone number answered by someone named O'Hara or Gordon with a bright red phone?
So, the point of this article is that the idea of deconcentrating poverty can work if the supporting programs are there.

You don't break three generations of dependency by changing the scenery alone, it has to be a comprehensive approach. Welfare reform worked when it addressed a comprehensive approach (child care, job training, transportation vouchers). Drug rehabilitation works with a comprehensive approach- not just jailing offenders. Crime prevention works with a comprehensive approach that includes more cops but also after school programs and active neighborhood organizations.

Who disagree with that?


1:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That and jobs Eric. These people need work. The number one thing killing this county right now is the lack of heavy lifting work for men who are as we use to say, "As strong as Ox and almost as smart as one."

When I was leaving high school, I had a friend that went to work at Whirlpool that would get paid big money for pushing a refridgerator from one assembly line to another. He wasn't smart enough to operate any of the machinary but he could move a fridge. And, they paid full health care benefits.

Those big boys have got no work in the 21st century business climate. Flipping burgers at Mac's ain't going to cut it.


Chuck Repke

1:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chuck, they still have a job for the kind of fella you describe.

He wears a uniform and travels with a code enforcement officer.

6:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The reason there's no jobs for the person you describe Repke is because your DFL buddies chased all the jobs out of the state with rediculous taxes.

Eric is right, there has to be much much more than just more cops and jail time. The trouble is that this city doesn't want to spend it. They want to spend all their money trying to be something they're addition to making the landlords and property maintenance the scapegoat so they don't have to look responsible. More DFL trickery!

7:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know 7:08 and then they all went to Mexico and then India and now China, where the air sucks and they pay 25 cents an hour.

Your kind of a country.


Chuck Repke

9:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

People are coming here in bus loud's from Chicago, Cincinnati and other city's that have high crime.
St.Paul was one of the nice place's, until police started cracking down on gangs in other states.
Now the people are moving here for the easy welfare system, we have the biggest population of Hmong and Semolian people in the country.
The Hmong immigration to St.Paul started with Randy Kelly, St. Paul Mayor Randy Kelly says he wants to help Hmong refugees.
He just wanted to get some of the money that our Federal Government was supplying for relocating these people.
They go on "Welfare", and others that lived in St.Paul all there lives were rejected and they became homeless.
Remember Chuck, a homeless person will resort to crime to stay alive.
You on the other hand use city money to make money, so you are a criminal in you own since.
The day you lose everything, your life will change also.
We have to put a stop importing all these illegal's and refugees to Minnesota.

7:07 AM  
Anonymous fat cat said...

I need that cheap labor in my business so I can get richer than I am. Keep those illegals coming.

7:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill paid his $400 to run ahainst Norm Coleman and Al Franken.

7:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chuck its a fact that oha crime statistics are not included in the overall cities general crime report.The one that the public see's.You might have seen the overall but not the one that the normal Joe see's.

So Chuck is saying that government is the answer to crime and affordable housing.

So let me ask the two busy bodies Eric and Chuck something.
Why is it that people in poverty stay in poverty and create crime on government assistance so long if not forever.How come public assistance is not helping African Americans?


8:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim you are just flat out wrong on the stat's. We get reports by grids. Roosevelt PHA is almost its own entire Grid (that and superblock) the reports show the crimes at those addresses.

As to why there is crime and wouldn't all of the crime go away if we just stopped helping people, the answer is a big, oh come on now....

You could write several books on what causes crime and not put all of the answers together, but let's just say that the newest stats say that it is harder for someone to break out of poverty in the United States than any other developed country.

Part of the answer is how we consentrate poverty in the US compared to other countries. We consentrate the poor in the urban center, when in reality you are actually much better off to be poor in a rural area (housing and food costs are less and manual labor options are higher). We also issolate our poor in schools filled with other poor students. The fact that motivated and/or students from higher socio-economic backgrounds go to other schools has a negetive impact on poorer students (if I have no high achievers in the classroom I have no peer group to motivate me).

And, we have made it a "normal" experience to be locked up. For the last 35-40 years the focus of our criminal justice system has been to get tough on crime. In Minnesota we wiped out the parole system 30 years ago. Now, you do the crime, you do the time and what you do inside makes no difference. In 1974 we changed the age of majority from 21 to 18. Prior to 1974 if you committed a crime and you were 20 years old you were a juvenile and your record was cleared when you turned 21. Now, we try to certify boys at 14-15-16 as adults and when they are done we keep the felony tag on them for the rest of their lives.... and never forget we don't hire felons. And, you do know that there are hundreds of thousand of small boys who today will be walking into a prison to visit their father, uncle, brother, and will view that as a "normal" life expectation.

That would be a few reasons, other than those big government assistance checks that might have an impact on the crime rate.


Chuck Repke

10:05 AM  
Blogger Bob said...

Chuck said;

Part of the answer is how we concentrate poverty in the US compared to other countries. We concentrate the poor in the urban center, when in reality you are actually much better off to be poor in a rural area (housing and food costs are less and manual labor options are higher).

my response;

Chuck I'm sorry to have to call you out on this statement. You just aren't correct on this one.

I lived in many rural areas through out my life. Up north and western Wisconsin. The jobs are not there Chuck. We tighten up section 8 in the inner city and provide section 8 housing in these rural areas with NO jobs and all it does is put a low income family in a hopeless condition.

Public transportation is a real problem in rural areas. There is NONE! Just to drive a car to work in a rural area can be an expensive undertaking considering the cost of gas, maintenance and insurance.

1000's of folks commute to the metro areas from rural areas just for employment. And when you can find some work in a rural area the jobs do not pay the same rate of pay they would pay in a metro area. Example, when I earned a WAGE (before I become a self employed contractor)as a handyman working in the metro I earned an average of $10 to $15 an hour. In the the rural areas as a wage earning handyman I earned $7.50 an hour. My ladyfriend who has lived with me for many years earned an hourly wage of $3.10 an hour plus tips as a waitress. An average of $40 a day. And believe me, folks in rural areas are lousy tippers due to the financial circumstances of the rural areas. In the city she earned minimum wage plus tips which averaged $100 to $150 a day.

On the subject of corrections, I couldn't agree with you more! So how do we change things?

10:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It has helped African Americans. It helped my family when my father came back from Vietnam(he worked two part time jobs and went to school and still qualified for assistance). You see, for our troops coming back they weren't exactly rolling out the red carpet for them, especially for blacks in in the South. So, some needed to get more schooling/training and move. We did. He's wrapping up 31 years with Chicago Fire Department and my mother who received WIC used that time to get her degrees and taught school, then became a counselor, then professor and now consultant.

That's subjective, meaning my own experience. The facts are:

56 percent of AFDC support ends within 12 months, 70 percent within 24 months, and almost 85 percent within 4 years (U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means).
So most people who are on assistance- are off with a few years.

How much of your tax dollars does it cost?
Federal 1%
State 2%
So, 99% of your federal taxes go elsewhere (cough-Iraq-cough), and 98% of your state taxes go elsewhere.

I know of a couple of more Chicago southsiders who were poor growing up and came here to do well. One is the Chief of Police and the other is an Appellate Court Judge.

So, Jim let me ask you a question. How can someone so uninformed, like yourself, freely open their mouth with confidence that what you say is worthy of anyones time?


11:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You and Chuck are both saying the same thing. You added the point that opportunities in rural areas are drying up. They are. The cost of gas is impacting them even more as many drive several miles a day to and fro. I spend a lot of time in Northern Minneosta still and talking to people from the Range and over in Bemidji, I gotta tell they're worried.
Oh, crime goes up a helluva lot when the times get tight up there. Ask any Ranger about the late 70's and early 80's.

The first thing to do to address this is to start educating the public on these myths. Any one who calls themselves a patriot, cannot complain about the Hmong in Minnesota. Its an honor that our town was chosen. You got problem with the Somali? For both cases people need to be informed of WHY these groups are here and their history. It deserves respect. Many of your people came here just look for a better job, they weren't being persecuted be warlords or communists for their cooperation with Americans for a promise they've never witnessed.

Start there.

Next step would be to go back over the programs we offer and make sure they're comprehensive in meeting the end goal of not needing the program. This article is great example of what has happened with political expediency over practicality. What politician is going win by saying we need to do more for those without, immigrants, welfare recipients, criminals and substance abusers?

If we want to advance society, that's what's going to have to be done- or we can keep moving further away or corralling them in controllable groups.


11:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"56 percent of AFDC support ends within 12 months, 70 percent within 24 months, and almost 85 percent within 4 years (U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means).
So most people who are on assistance- are off with a few years."

These people are off the dole because they've been thrown off due to chnages in the amount of time a person can collect, not becuase they found employment.

2:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

More sh*t from out of your assmouth.

Why are they forced off?
Would that be welfare reform where they were forced to go through education or job training?

What if I told you these are pre-welfare reform numbers?
What if I told you that today, those numbers are higher?

Would the real facts matter or do you want to just keep telling us what your brain stem is able to emit?

You're not good enough to discuss this, so just go back to anon-sniping. Troll.


3:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

for the love of god people, can we all just get a spell checker?

4:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
for the love of god people, can we all just get a spell checker?

*Good spelling does not equate to a higher IQ.

We don't get into the grade school antics of picking on someones spelling here. Go over to E Democracy if spelling is a big deal to you.

7:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do some people on a democracy keep cutting down the poor people, instead of people like Chris Coleman, David Thune, Charles Repke, Norman Coleman, Allen Franken and how about Randy Kelly.
They all feel that by working in city government, they are above the law.
Why is this?

11:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eric I've worked in the inner cities and your parents experience is not the norm.Have you seen the section eight program in St.Paul?I didn't think so.Also could you give me some statistics on the success of the program?

Chuck I'm all for vouchers for the inner city kids,how about you Eric the Great?It seems like the libs and their elitest attitudes don't want the poor rubbing elbows with their kids in school.

eric you give all these percentages,but do you actually know what percentage of the federal tax dollars went to fight the war in Iraq?Step up to the plate buddy.


11:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim said... "Chuck I'm all for vouchers for the inner city kids,how about you Eric the Great?It seems like the libs and their elitest attitudes don't want the poor rubbing elbows with their kids in school."

It is amazing how many times I try to make a point here and people just miss it entirely. NO, I oppose vouchers because it only makes things worse. I would rather require your little darling to have to go to public school instead of allowing you to pay your way out of having your kid exposed to the poor.

Imagine how much better public schools would be if Republicans had to send their children to public schools. The world would be very different then! The money would flow to the public schools if their little darlings had to be in those classrooms.


Chuck Repke

8:43 AM  
Blogger Bob said...

Eric, job opportunities in rural areas have always been tight.

Then add to this the stigma that rural area folks have toward OUTSIDERS. A home town guy or gal will get those job opportunities long before a stranger.

9:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You must be new here. I've seen section eight housing up close and personal. I don't come from a family where we all are on the same plane. I've seen both the good and bad when it comes to public assistance and I choose to support policy that sustains public assistance- that's only the partial answer.

I do however get a kick out of people who have this world view of blacks, or minorities or anyone from Chicago and then when they hear something different to challenge their view, they make it the exception to the rule. My parents may the exception to your rule as you see it in your area but in big evil Chicago, we were right in the middle. Nothing out of the ordinary except, when I run into people like you.

The other part of my answer is divided into three:
1. the attitude/mindset/understanding of the recipient must be that this is temporary and finite. So, motivation to move on must be valued.
2. the programs can't be just giving out a check. What we know has worked is when there is mandatory training/education components to getting assistance, vouchers for transportation as well as quality childcare so that parents can follow through on the commitments (which is what social workers need to be tracking).

3. Mandatory drug education and rehabilitation- ongoing. Time to de-criminalize it and help those who can be helped and separate those who can't.

That's a complete program. It will cost more than we're spending now but, even if you only get half or a third of those people in the workforce, it widens the pool of those contributing, therefore lowering the individual tax commitment.

Working people, even poor working people are less likely to be a burden on the penal/legal system, engage in unhealthy lifestyles (too many children, teen pregnancies, drugs) and add to the economy.

We saw everyone of those things happen at the end of the 90's when employment was high and welfare reform was producing results.

Invest more now, save a shit-load in the future.

I'll do the Iraq math for you in my next post.


12:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Section 8 housing in Saint Paul:
Central Hi-Rise 141
Cleveland Hi-Rise 144
Dunedin Hi-Rise 142
Edgerton Hi-Rise 219
Exchange Hi-Rise 194
Front Hi-Rise 151
Hamline Hi-Rise 186
Iowa Hi-Rise 148
Montreal Hi-Rise 185
Mt. Airy Hi-Rise 153
Neill Hi-Rise 104
Ravoux Hi-Rise 220
Seal Hi-Rise 144
Valley Hi-Rise 159
Wabasha Hi-Rise 71
Wilson Hi-Rise 187
Total Hi-Rise Units 2,548
Family Housing Developments
Dunedin Terrace 88
McDonough Homes 580
Mt. Airy Homes 298
Roosevelt Homes 314

Total Housing Development
Units 1,280

Family Scattered Site Housing

Total PHA Housing Units 4,249

Total Section 8 Units 4,103

Total PHA-Owned and
Section 8 Units 8,352
What is it you want to know about Section 8?

I'm sure when you see that list you can't possible attached any of your venom to all of those units so, what exactly is your complaint or question?


12:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim- or anyone, give me your mount you spend on federal taxes (or a made up amount) and I'll break it down in percentages and show how our federal budget is divided.

This could be a moment where rather you're democrat or republican, can start asking direct economic questions of our electeds.

By the way, the increase in cost for the programs I suggested would cost what we spent on Iraq in sic months in 2007.

Six months.


12:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Taxpayers in St. Paul, Minnesota will paid $158.8 million for the cost of the Iraq War in FY2007.

For the same amount of money, the following could have been provided:

45,667 People with Health Care for One Year OR

182,223 Homes with Renewable Electricity for One Year OR

3,482 Public Safety Officers for One year OR

2,498 Music and Arts Teachers for One Year OR

17,306 Scholarships for University Students for One Year OR

1,014 Affordable Housing Units OR

52,647 Children with Health Care for One Year OR

23,031 Head Start Places for Children for One Year OR

2,721 Elementary School Teachers for One Year OR

12:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about giving us a breakdown of the cost per taxpayer for a $100,000,000.00 judgement award to the landlords you loud mouthed nothing.

9:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To 12:44

Or......we could have how many more non profits exploiting the problems of the poor and blaming it on landlords so they can line their own pckets.

9:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Apparently you think that some judgment out there for a case that you or your lawyers seem to have a hard time articulating or even sticking to, is going to pay you about one-fifth of the city budget. You also seem to think that in that fantasy world, somehow judgments are instant, no appeal and some gnome writes you a check immediately.

I guess you're not a loud-mouth because you really don't know shit. Just another uneducated greedy bastard looking for a way to get something for nothing- you know the same way you treated your property. Put nothing in it and try to squeeze every dime out of it.

Now for your second post about non-profits. You piss on them because why? They make you abide by certain standards? They give a voice to the poor?

You have no idea what non-profits across this city do, do you?

What is a non-profit?


10:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In case you're still around Jim.
If you are paying about $8,000 in federal taxes, here how it breaks down:

$3,360 goes to Past and Current Military

$1,760 goes to Health

$800 goes to Interest on Non-Military Debt

$720 goes to Anti-Poverty Programs

$320 goes to Education, Training & Social Services

$320 goes to Government & Law Enforcement

$240 goes to Housing & Community Development

$240 goes to Environment, Energy & Science

$160 goes to Agriculture, Commerce and Transportation

$80 goes to International Relations

What's said that we spend so little on things that will advance our country like Science, Commerce and Energy. You idiots are fighting over the peanuts while the real money is being poured into a military budget that doesn't go directly to troops but, the vast support system and private contracts. Its why we have trained soldiers making 1/8th of what private contractors are paying their 'security' forces in the same war zone.

Iraq is mess and has been a failure to our country.


10:17 AM  

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