Collateral Damage?
July 7, 2008 1:37 PM   Subscribe

"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." American Murder Mystery. Page 2. Page 3. Page 4.
posted by wittgenstein (57 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
When disenfranchised people get priced out of inner cities and move to suburbs or cheaper cities, they don't leave the problems of poverty behind - they take them with them, no?
posted by spicynuts at 1:47 PM on July 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


OMG poor people do crime even when they live in nicer neghborhoods! Who would have guessed?
posted by RussHy at 1:47 PM on July 7, 2008


You know, I was thinking, "This is awfully long; I might read it later, but I'd like to see a concise summary first." So I turned to the comments, and I got the classic MetaFilter summary in the tone of snark. Thanks, guys! Do I need to end this comment with a dismissive rhetorical question?
posted by mr_roboto at 1:53 PM on July 7, 2008 [4 favorites]


I'm not quite sure how simply moving poor people around counts as an 'anti-poverty' program, although it would certainly increase the quality of life for those moved. The problem, though, is that those people are still poor.

But, as long as the drug war remains, there are always going to be jobs in crime. That a huge part of the problem. The drugwar is actually a subsidy for gangs. Limiting supply keeps the prices high, while the illegality means that drug dealers have to solve their differences with violence, rather then suing each other the way ordinary business people would.

Nonetheless, even if it doesn't get rid of the underlying problem, the section 8 program does improve the quality of life for people on it.
posted by delmoi at 1:57 PM on July 7, 2008 [5 favorites]


Section 8 paid for my family's suburban home for a while (one unit of a duplex in a moderately-priced area).

I don't recall robbing or killing anyone, but that may just be the booze talking.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:57 PM on July 7, 2008 [3 favorites]


My comment was not snark, if you are referring to me. My comment was a legitimate question in response to the theory of the article.
posted by spicynuts at 1:58 PM on July 7, 2008


Scatter site placements, from what I've seen, are a lot more easily converted to stand alone crackhouses than apartments in public housing complexes are, which is one part of the problem. I've been in two of those, total drug dens in otherwise decent neighborhoods. Since there are no social services attached to a public housing voucher, there's no caseworker doing home visits, so if the situation in the home deteriorates it becomes a straight up law enforcement situation where the DEA is called in raid the place rather than a treatment intervention that might stabilize the home. Section 8 landlords get a two year financial guarantee from HUD, so they're also not necessarily looking out for the best interests of the families since they get their rent whether the family is evicted or not. Also, the neighbors usually resent the families as a threat to their property values.

Scatter site housing is a dramatic improvement over high rise public housing projects, but the families living in scatter site are still the poorest of the poor, and bring all the corollary baggage with them. Assessing the family's risk level at the time of relocation from a housing project or entry into the program and assigning home based social services as a part of the deal would likely improve outcomes.
posted by The Straightener at 2:00 PM on July 7, 2008 [4 favorites]


.
posted by orthogonality at 2:08 PM on July 7, 2008


Since there are no social services attached to a public housing voucher, there's no caseworker doing home visits, so if the situation in the home deteriorates it becomes a straight up law enforcement situation where the DEA is called in raid the place rather than a treatment intervention that might stabilize the home.

What is the caseworker's role in this?

To inculcate bourgeois values and culture they may not have picked up back in the 'hood?

No snark. No challenge, there. Just curious.
posted by jason's_planet at 2:23 PM on July 7, 2008


The caseworker's role would be to ensure that a family deemed to be at risk due to either substance abuse histories, child welfare histories, domestic violence histories or other indicators of potential failure to thrive would be supported through the period of transition to their new home rather than having the family lose their voucher, get an eviction on their record and almost certainly wind up sitting in a family homeless shelter as a result of poor but preventable decisions.
posted by The Straightener at 2:28 PM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


That's pretty much my take. The idea is to turn these people into middle class folks who don't cause any trouble. (Or perhaps more accurately, who don't let their adolescent boys cause trouble.)

Although, since we're steadily demolishing the middle class, that may be a bit of a lost cause even if we were doing it right.
posted by Naberius at 2:30 PM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


OMG poor people criminals do crime even when they live in nicer neghborhoods! Who would have guessed?

Fixed &c.

Not all poor people "do crime," Sherlock.
posted by dersins at 3:19 PM on July 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


That's pretty much my take. The idea is to turn these people into middle class folks who don't cause any trouble. (Or perhaps more accurately, who don't let their adolescent boys cause trouble.)

It doesn't have to be "your take" since it was one of the express goals of the Section 8 program and one of its selling points, both to the city governments that implemented it and to the people who took advantage of it. And I don't necessarily see what is wrong with aspiring to financial and familial stability.

Unless you are talking about the role of the caseworker. It is unclear who you are responding to.
posted by Falconetti at 3:28 PM on July 7, 2008


This will wendell.
posted by oaf at 3:32 PM on July 7, 2008


You know, these theories almost seem like mirror versions of the Victorian idea of a criminal class, but now moving away the "good" poor people.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:50 PM on July 7, 2008


Straightener: Ah, OK. Thanks.
posted by jason's_planet at 3:54 PM on July 7, 2008


Um, the problem seems to be that overall crime went down, but (oh, noes!) more middle class and up people were exposed to it. I guess that's bad if you're middle class and up. I guess. Unless it motivates you to fix the problems of the poor. Then, maybe it's still bad but it will get better?
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:57 PM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Unless it motivates you to fix the problems of the poor.

Seems to me that one large building should accommodate everyone involved. The police station, probation office, county hospital, abortion clinic, daycare and elementary school, mental health services and case worker offices could all be housed in a giant apartment complex full of thousands of residents that received free housing. The ratio of employees to residents would be mostly constant, so expansion would be a matter of just building another complex. (Comedians will tell jokes about it, but hiding the addicted and mentally ill in high traffic areas is probably stretching the suburban myth of well being past the point of it's credibility.)
posted by Brian B. at 4:29 PM on July 7, 2008


For ye have the poor always with you, but me ye have not always.
—Matthew 26:11
posted by Electrius at 4:33 PM on July 7, 2008


Though lack of financial resources is clearly a problem for the poor, it's lack of social and intellectual resources that frequently causes the most problems. True, if you're living on $1000/month or less, it really doesn't take much to cause a pretty big liquidity problem. But things like forgetting rent payments, overdrawing one's bank account, and using cash advance places add a tremendous strain to a budget that didn't have much slack in it to begin with. It takes a fair amount of discipline and planning to avoid those kind of things, and many poor people simply lack the requisite knowledge and experience to make these kinds of plans.

In addition to helping with the logistical things, caseworkers can also provide an essential point of contact for the public services network. Case in point: my church is currently working with a man who has been living on disability for more than 30 years. He was barely scraping by on his $670-ish a month when the landlord raised rent by $50. Thing is, he didn't even know that Section 8 existed. So in addition to making sure he's got a little extra money--currently in talks with his caseworker to see if we can send him a little money every month without jeopardizing his benefits--we got him signed up to start the process of Section 8. That could take years, but he should have been on it years ago. Similarly, he didn't know that vocational rehab programs exist, and we're going to see if participating in one might prepare him for the workforce so he can regain some measure of independence. Exactly why his caseworker hadn't signed him up for Section 8 is not clear. The system ain't perfect, but it's something.

Managing leases and bank accounts, navigating the health care system, not getting screwed by disadvantageous consumer contracts, all of these things are frequently beyond the ability, or at least the experience, of the very poor. Most MeFites probably do these things as a matter of course, not realizing that it takes no small measure of skill and training to do so. If being "middle-class" means "being capable of navigating one's way through modern society without getting evicted from one's home or having one's car repossessed as a result of entirely avoidable mistakes," then by all means, let's make the poor middle class.

The housing projects of the 1970s were massive eyesores that led to massive increases in crime, but they did provide some measure of social capital, both in the form of access to public services and proximity of community members. I still think there's a good argument to be made that on balance they were a bad idea, but that's not to say they had no advantages, advantages that the Section 8 program has eliminated as an unintended consequence.
posted by valkyryn at 4:37 PM on July 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


Um, the problem seems to be that overall crime went down but (oh, noes!) more middle class and up people were exposed to it

No, overall crime went up: "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 20percent a year." [...] "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." [emphasis mine]

The problem isn't that the crime has moved so much as it has spread. By moving the ultra-poor from one concentrated spot to many different neighborhoods, they took one problem area and turned it into ten or twenty, each with its own new pattern of crime and gang recruitment. And like the article says, the old "problem neighborhoods" had a sense of long-term community which helped to support the residents and mitigate crime; the new ones don't, so people feel isolated and disconnected.

I'm with valkyryn and The Straightener -- Section 8 was well-intended, but seems to have been put through with very little thought about how these families would obtain social services. It's hard enough to move to a totally new place when you've got money to spare; without it, failure and hardship seem likely, especially if all the assistance offices are still in the old neighborhood! If only we could do it over again, knowing what we do now...
posted by vorfeed at 4:52 PM on July 7, 2008


You know it's a sticky situation when not only is the problem bad, but even the mere discussion of it is a veritable mine field.
posted by Xoebe at 4:53 PM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Um, the problem seems to be that overall crime went down, but (oh, noes!) more middle class and up people were exposed to it. I guess that's bad if you're middle class and up."

Nope, what happened is that the overall crime went down for a while, then went back up in a broader distribution.

I do like that some comments have been made here noting the disadvantages of suburban "communities," especially vis-a-vis the difficulty of securing access to public services that are in large part necessary in order to give folks the platform they need to stand on in order to reach the higher rungs of socio-economic class.

The unfortunate point is that due to the Bush tax cuts (which slashed neighborhood social service funding) and failing economy, there isn't any easy remedy and the plight of these poor may have been made worse while they were in a vulnerable position.
posted by klangklangston at 5:15 PM on July 7, 2008


I DON'T PREVIEW
posted by klangklangston at 5:18 PM on July 7, 2008


The problem isn't that the crime has moved so much as it has spread. By moving the ultra-poor from one concentrated spot to many different neighborhoods, they took one problem area and turned it into ten or twenty, each with its own new pattern of crime and gang recruitment.

And as the article noted, from places where there was heavy police presence, to places where the police were basically overwhelmed.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 5:19 PM on July 7, 2008


I'm with valkyryn and The Straightener -- Section 8 was well-intended, but seems to have been put through with very little thought about how these families would obtain social services. It's hard enough to move to a totally new place when you've got money to spare; without it, failure and hardship seem likely, especially if all the assistance offices are still in the old neighborhood! If only we could do it over again, knowing what we do now...

This is why many folks looking at rehabilitation of neighborhoods in post-industrial Michigan favor co-housing planning, where the buildings are designed to foster communal spaces and interaction, especially when combined with mixed-use development.

Michigan's just lucky that most of the projects have been left standing, since their explosion of crime in previously moderate-income neighborhoods has primarily been to the collapse of the job market, currently exacerbated by the sub-prime crisis. What had been first-ring suburbs are now dotted with crack houses and gangs in large part due to the newly abandoned buildings (which are now being stripped; the older abandoned buildings long ago had their wiring and plumbing torn out).
posted by klangklangston at 5:23 PM on July 7, 2008


Although, since we're steadily demolishing the middle class, that may be a bit of a lost cause even if we were doing it right.

And herein, in my opinion, lies the problem. Unfortunately, we do not have the old projects in these places to see what would've happened if we had done nothing, but I suspect strongly that the overall diminishing of the solid middle-class career has more to do with the overall rise in crime than the Section 8 program.

Excuse the crude analogy, but if I'm pissing on the floor, and you push the puddle around into more and smaller puddles...Is the pissing or the pushing creating more piss?
posted by rollbiz at 5:25 PM on July 7, 2008


vorfeed, in my opinion, the real problem here is less that housing solutions are designed poorly, either the original projects or Section 8, nearly as much as the fact that though planners seem to be interested in shaping the places people live, it doesn't matter how nice your dive apartment is if you're unemployed. Even self-consciously mixed-use neighborhoods tend to exclude most major sources of jobs, making the most "pedestrian friendly" neighborhood still dependent upon cars and the road network.

Relatedly klangklangston, I'm slightly with you on mixed use, but in modern parlance that generally means mixing some retail with residential space. Retail alone can't support a neighborhood; in pure numbers, you can get one or two stores in a building that can easily house several dozen more people than the stores can gainfully employ. An additional drawback to Section 8 is that it moved people away from the only kind of job that a poor person can reasonably be expected to hold down and that pays more than $10/hour: heavy industry. There's got to be some kind of industry, something that actually produces goods to sell. Yes, the manufacturing industry has tanked in this country in the past two or three decades, but how much of that is due to offshoring and how much is due to policy choices diluting the workforce?
posted by valkyryn at 7:50 PM on July 7, 2008


What, downtown real-estate is valuable?? The notion that poor neighborhoods are starting to ring inner cities doesn't seem like some kind of earth-shattering revelation, here. Crappy starter homes built in the 60's are now mostly all rental properties, with their original owners having "moved on up" as the suburbs grew along with the population. Downtown areas, with either empty parking lots (HEY, CONDO TOWER!) or cool old houses are the first to get revitalized. I've been watching the poor in Austin get pushed further and further out each year, as the rich get tired of driving 25 miles to work each day, and have begun to re-colonize the central urban area. It's happening all over the place, and it doesn't seem confined to small towns, either. Look at Houston outside loop 610. Blech.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:35 PM on July 7, 2008


so, you take people with PTSD inducing exposure to violence (esp. children), kick them out of their homes, and put them into neighborhoods where a good portion of the people are hostile to their presence, the culture and support system is gone, and no one wants to hire them. add the alienation of suburban life, a heavy emphasis on consumerism, and school systems that send "troubled children" immediately into special ed. yeah. that'll work out just great. (paranoid types would say it worked out just like designed: isolate, divide, and give the middle class racists more excuses to be so.)

i guess what's interesting in this article is that they interview all the "anti-poverty" NGO-types, academics and cops--but nary an interview with all the street-level anti-poverty *activists* who shouted long and loud that this was a bad idea back when Cabrini was coming down. i heard it a thousand times from people like Mary Johnson who lived in the Robert Taylor Homes (Chi) and said that exactly this would happen back in the early 90s. but no, they were just moms with children in prison, and they didn't have fancy degrees and certainly they had no voice or access to media. it's not that they liked the high rise hells, but that at least there they had the power to find one another and organize, and the structures/connections to move around.

one thing i learned early on is to have deep suspicion of those whose income/employment depends on the existence of poverty, no matter how lovely their theories are and how much they sound like saints.
posted by RedEmma at 8:59 PM on July 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


HOPE VI stands as a bitter footnote to this story.

Please. HOPE VI works great in some cities, works like shit in others. I'd hardly call any of the HOPE VI projects in Boston bitter footnotes, but that's because property prices have risen so much that developers will take any heavily discounted, centrally located property they can get their hands on.

The article is so utterly disingenuous that I fear I smell a rat.

“It became seen as a way to get rid of eyesores and attract rich people downtown.”

Well of course, stupid. It's called incentive, and it's what you're going to need if you want someone to foot the bill for gutting an old rusty hulking factory and turn it into condos. And in return the developers had to guarantee a certain percentage of the units were for low-income families, a certain percentage for middle-income, and the rest were fair market.

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.

Uh, yeah... all public housing works this way. Preference is given to working families, those with disabilities, and the elderly. That's not specific to HOPE VI, it's been HUD's standing orders since Clinton. Working preference. Welcome to the new Socialism. But this article... ugh. It reads like a Libertarian hit-piece. BIG GOVERNMENT HAS FAILED YOU! I'm so sorry! Really, I am. I didn't even want to write this, but I felt it was my duty. It's so sad--a real shame. But, I think we'll all agree, in the end, it would be best if we just got rid of Section 8 and HOPE VI. And say, did you know they make you take a TEST to drive a car! You call that democracy? Let's get rid of the DMV, while we're at it.

Oh, but wait! Most large urban housing authorities have already frozen new Section 8 vouchers. And HOPE VI was all-but killed by the Bush administration's HUD cuts back in his first term. So... this article is basically saying is that we're really better off without this stuff that's already been effectively canceled? Well that's great news! It makes me feel so much better about my tax rebate.

The only thing controversial about this article is the controversy, but I'm sure that hasn't hurt the writer's career none.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:28 PM on July 7, 2008


Perhaps it is PTSD as mentioned above. Perhaps the issue is culture, not poverty (as would be suggested by the crime rates in West Virginia, extremely poor and very low crime -- why?). Then again, maybe these people were permanently damaged by lead exposure. Perhaps the economics of being on the wrong side of the drug war makes distributing the criminal element somewhat like a franchise for crackhouses.

Lots of criticism of the article and not many solutions proposed to what is apparently a very real problem.

RedEmma, "income/employment" -> or social status/capital.
posted by rr at 9:29 PM on July 7, 2008


You know, I have wondered for some time why people who are poor, able to hold down a job but not high-paying enough to afford rent in the bigger cities, stay in the bigger cities. It seems like a no-brainer to move to a place where the difference between minimum wage and local rents is significantly narrower, so that (provided you can find a job) you are more likely to make a living wage...
posted by davejay at 9:45 PM on July 7, 2008


Davejay, the problem is there are more poor than can be supported by small communities. One solution to the problem you're talkin about is people who commute long distances to work in expensive areas [seen in the SF bay area, seen in Mass., seen elsewhere].

Illegals also (artificially) depress the wages, especially in low end service jobs, which distorts the landscape. The (relatively recent) uncontrolled influx of them is something many areas have simply not yet adjusted to.
posted by rr at 10:33 PM on July 7, 2008


Did the rate of abortion go down once the housing projects and affiliated services were scattered?
posted by benzenedream at 12:12 AM on July 8, 2008


It seems like a no-brainer to move to a place where the difference between minimum wage and local rents is significantly narrower, so that (provided you can find a job) you are more likely to make a living wage...

This isn't as big an issue as you might think because no matter where you go, a Section 8 voucher is adjusted to whatever the fair market rents are in the area--the amount you pay is a percentage of your income, not to exceed a pre-calculated amount in order to allow people to actually have enough left over to live. In Boston, MA that might mean a $1500 apartment, in Lincoln, NE it could be a $400 apartment, but it's the same voucher. Additionally, smaller cities don't have the economies of scale that allow for the kinds of social service programs you will find in a larger city.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:12 AM on July 8, 2008


"You know, I have wondered for some time why people who are poor, able to hold down a job but not high-paying enough to afford rent in the bigger cities, stay in the bigger cities."

It also costs a lot to move, both fiscally and socially.

"Well of course, stupid. It's called incentive, and it's what you're going to need if you want someone to foot the bill for gutting an old rusty hulking factory and turn it into condos. And in return the developers had to guarantee a certain percentage of the units were for low-income families, a certain percentage for middle-income, and the rest were fair market."

Yes, but… Less than five percent of the folks who had been living in the projects made it into those low-income units. They were a bait and switch. Dealing with low-income housing in Ann Arbor, I saw this pretty often, given a couple of things—first off, developers could buy low-income credits by contributing to a pool rather than building the units in their fancy high-rise. Second, they only have to guarantee that it will remain low-income for a relatively brief amount of time (often two years). After that, it's market rate.
posted by klangklangston at 7:14 AM on July 8, 2008


As someone said, this article is a Libertarian hit piece.

1) The developers are never implicated as agents of change, even when their "market-rate" housing solutions fail, even on paper, to replace the housing stock needed, and of course, replace it with more expensive housing, forcing residents out.

2) There is room within the typical liberal capitalist "antipoverty" program for more than HOPE VI, but the author writes as if HOPE VI was the be-all end-all of antipoverty programs, rather than a band-aid.

Why despair so easily? it's suspicious.


"Section 8 people" is kind of the new scapegoat around my old neighborhood association. New Orleans just got rid of its housing projects en masse in a time when the housing stock on the whole is very limited, and rents are astronomical; and apparently new, annoying crimes have begun. I don't see the difference, frankly.
posted by eustatic at 7:54 AM on July 8, 2008


The problem isn't that the crime has moved so much as it has spread. By moving the ultra-poor from one concentrated spot to many different neighborhoods, they took one problem area and turned it into ten or twenty, each with its own new pattern of crime and gang recruitment.

Yes, the problems do spread but I think one thing being left out of the discussion is that even the new neighborhoods these families are moving to are largely neighborhoods already in decline. In Philly a lot of Section 8 and mental health housing has been clustered in Tacony, a former white, working class stronghold that used to be supported by the river industries that disappeared. That neighborhood's changing racial and socioeconomic demographics predated the subsidized housing influx. In fact, the only reason there was so much available housing for subsidy programs is because white flight drained the neighborhood of a sizable percentage of its population.

The old former Tacony residents beef about what Section 8 did to their neighborhood all the time, there are whole threads devoted to it on Philly discussion boards. There's a limited perspective at work here that can't comprehend that there were forces at work eroding the fabric of Tacony before Section 8 got there, and that maybe their decision to bail on the old neighborhood and move to the 'burbs was a big part of that. I don't know anything about North Memphis, maybe the scenario there is different, but something tells me it's probably not.

This isn't a question of poor people ruining great neighborhoods, believe me, these Section 8 heavy neighborhoods were moving in that direction already.
posted by The Straightener at 9:05 AM on July 8, 2008


You don't see the difference how?

People who have made their biggest financial commitment in their lives have that investment and effort destroyed thanks to government-spondered short term renters from high crime areas who bring the crime with them vs. ?
posted by rr at 9:13 AM on July 8, 2008


Let me tell you something, one of the crackhouses I had the pleasure of visiting was in this Tacony neighborhood. It was subsidized housing that the client had received years before after successfully completing mental health and drug treatment. She was stable and thriving in subsidized housing for four years before relapsing. As is often the case when a single mother relapses, her house was soon taken over by other neighborhood addicts and eventually became the drug house on the block. I got the call to investigate because word got to the housing authority that the woman's four year old son was still living there (he wasn't).

Now, first of all I was a little shocked to hear that there was a crackhouse in this particular neighborhood because of its reputation as a mostly white, working class -- albeit a seriously roughneck type working class -- part of town. I hadn't spent much time in this neighborhood because honestly I usually worked in much worse parts of the city.

I was blown away by what was going on up in this part of town. Open air drug dealing on the corners, street prostitution in broad daylight, fucking crackheads everywhere. But the interesting thing was that most of these unsavory characters weren't Section 8 renters. They were the old Tacony people -- white people -- (and yes, I talked to some of them and verified this) who were driving the chaos in this particular area. And a group of them took advantage of this mentally ill woman, commandeered her home, totally fucking trashed the place and turned it into a straight up crackhouse.

So, any binary proposition casting home owners as the victims vs. the subsidized renters as the neighborhood wreckers is basically useless; it does not reflect the reality of conditions in declining neighborhoods, which are far more complicated than that.
posted by The Straightener at 9:39 AM on July 8, 2008


Let me try and understand your anecdote.

There is a women who came into the neighborhood and "relapsed" somehow after "thriving." through what is apparently no fault of her own (since she is mentally ill and her home was "commandeered") her house became a center for criminal behavior perpetrated by residents who were already there.

Is that the story?

So where was the crackhouse before she moved in? Which house was commandeered before that, and why did they move toher residence?
posted by rr at 10:33 AM on July 8, 2008


There are different kinds of crackhouses. Sometimes a crackhouse is established by drug dealers who target an already abandoned property as a distribution point for their drugs. These crackhouses tend to have some level of organization like queued lines for buyers and armed security and/or attack trained pitbulls on site to prevent buyers from overrunning the sellers.

But not every crackhouse is like this, a lot of crackhouses were normal homes that became crackhouses after being taken over from their owners by other addicts. A common scenario is for a single mother to relapse after thriving in housing for some time and subsequently get taken advantage of by other addicts since there is no male figure in the house to prevent it. Maybe she has a friend over to get high one night and that friend never leaves. Then that friend calls his friends, who tell their friends that there's an open house in the neighborhood. The house gets swarmed with squatters, and the lease holder either is powerless to stop them or agrees to let them stay because they bring drugs with them, or maybe every now and then they get up some rent money between themselves and help keep everyone from getting evicted.

The latter scenario is still a crackhouse. When there are bags, stems, liquor bottles and empty condoms all over the floor and shit piled up over the rim of the toilet bowl and a bucket filled with piss in the living room, that's a crackhouse.
posted by The Straightener at 10:59 AM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


In the first of the two posts our point in your original post appeared to be that the areas were in decline anyway, the addicts were already present (and locals) and (presumably) the development of crackhouses was inevitable. The basic reasoning seemed to be "people were unfairly blaming this woman for a problem that would have happened anyway."

In the second posting, your point seems to be that people in this demographic periodically relapse after apparently thriving and become a focal point for addicts to take over.

This is not a would-have-happened-anyway scenario; it is in fact (even in your examples) apparently catalyzed by the presence of the newcomer.

So, going back to the post you responded to, it does in fact appear to be the case that government sponsored section 8 housing voucher recipients do bring crime with them and catalyze crime in their new environment, either by bringing along with them criminal associates or by themselves being criminals.

To your credit, you do note that areas in decline are especially vulnerable to the damage done by section 8. That is worthy of note.
posted by rr at 1:10 PM on July 8, 2008


"This is not a would-have-happened-anyway scenario; it is in fact (even in your examples) apparently catalyzed by the presence of the newcomer."

Don't be fooled by post hoc ergo propter hoc. That the crackhouse formed around the woman who relapsed does not prove that there would not have otherwise been an all-locals crackhouse.

Further, stop attempting to demonize section 8. The damage has not been done by section 8—the damage has been done by criminals who were displaced when housing projects were destroyed. Likewise, section 8 housing voucher recipients do not bring crime with them or catalyze crime—criminals are a sub-set of those who have been impacted by the shift to section 8 housing vouchers as a method of mitigating concentrated poverty.

I disagree that this article was a hit piece, but given such conflation and rhetorical clumsiness, I can very well see how it can be interpreted thusly.
posted by klangklangston at 1:34 PM on July 8, 2008


Klangklangston, that the crackhouse COULD have formed if the woman was not there says nothing about why it _did_ form. And moreover, the topic article strongly implies that in fact the section 8 policies _have_ in fact spread and catalyzed crime, whatever the reason.

You "section 8 is not the problem, criminals are the problem" is logic on par with "guns do not kill people, people kill people."
posted by rr at 1:45 PM on July 8, 2008


"Klangklangston, that the crackhouse COULD have formed if the woman was not there says nothing about why it _did_ form. And moreover, the topic article strongly implies that in fact the section 8 policies _have_ in fact spread and catalyzed crime, whatever the reason."

Of course it doesn't say anything about why it did form—it formed because the woman was in a vulnerable position and there was ample interest in the neighborhood. Likewise, section 8 itself says nothing about how it formed, only that someone living there was having their housing costs subsidized.

"You "section 8 is not the problem, criminals are the problem" is logic on par with "guns do not kill people, people kill people.""

And your "Section 8 creates crackhouses" is as retarded as arguing that because blacks are more likely to be incarcerated, that blackness causes crime.

For someone who's attempting to throw around "logic," you sure don't know how to use it.
posted by klangklangston at 1:57 PM on July 8, 2008


So your claim is that it was coincidental?

How do you cover all of the coincidences in the article?
posted by rr at 2:09 PM on July 8, 2008


It is an interesting article. I wonder if it is gang activity that a few of the transplants bring with them and then that gang activity grows like a cancer after getting established in its new home.
posted by caddis at 2:22 PM on July 8, 2008


I'm arguing that it's an ad hominem fallacy and that you didn't read the article very well (and also don't know very much about low-income housing or section 8 or even poor people).
posted by klangklangston at 2:22 PM on July 8, 2008


Wait, you're claiming the article backs you up that section 8 is not the problem?

If you're willing to go through the mental gymnastics to pretend the following --

1. some of the the people involved are criminals

2. those criminals, relocated on the government tab took crime with them

-- somehow equates to "the damage has not been done by section 8" then.. be my guest. It's intellectually dishonest, but if it makes you feel better, have at it.

Pretending it has nothing to do with section 8 enabling their moving into low-crime areas that weren't prepared for the influx of criminals is ridiculous.
posted by rr at 2:38 PM on July 8, 2008


So, is it a confusion of terms that you're having trouble with? Because section 8 refers to the housing code under which subsidized housing is offered. It was offered prior to the elimination of housing projects (indeed, it was started around the end of the 1930s), and is offered to more than just those who moved from the projects. A fair amount of my housing co-op was subsidized by section 8, and that had little or no predictive value regarding the likelihood of criminal activity in a given unit—something that tracked much better to factors like teenage boys, lack of supervision and low income (which doesn't mean section 8, though that's got a much higher correlation than "crime"). Arguing that the subsidization of housing increases crime is simply not borne out by either this article or any other data sets that I've ever seen, especially when there are other, better predictors.

This increase in crime is related to the demography of both the preceding projects and the neighborhoods that folks moved into, just as similar crime increases in rural areas can be attributed more readily to changes in meth distribution systems (international gang involvement, gang members shipped out to the country, weaker and less dense law enforcement) than to shifts in agricultural subsidies.

But your simplistic reading does neither the article nor yourself any favors.
posted by klangklangston at 3:35 PM on July 8, 2008


so, you take people with PTSD inducing exposure to violence (esp. children), kick them out of their homes, and put them into neighborhoods where a good portion of the people are hostile to their presence

I hear a lot of this in the thread, but if the article can be trusted at all, it's more like the neighbours are oblivious to their presence, as can be seen in the "do people ever answer yes to these questions?" reply to the questionnaire about health care. Which IMHO, is far more the norm among socioculturally mixed groups -- the haves are simply oblivious to the situation of the have-nots rather than harboring malice.

So, any binary proposition casting home owners as the victims vs. the subsidized renters as the neighborhood wreckers is basically useless

I know MeFi is a nerd's cliche paradise, but correlation, while not causation, is certainly worth a damn when it's strong enough and sharply defined. So any alternate explanation should probably not be built on isolated anecdote.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:50 PM on July 8, 2008


"I know MeFi is a nerd's cliche paradise, but correlation, while not causation, is certainly worth a damn when it's strong enough and sharply defined. So any alternate explanation should probably not be built on isolated anecdote."

What I read his comment to be indicative of was not arguing against the correlation, but of noting that the correlation has confounding factors which were not explored.
posted by klangklangston at 4:03 PM on July 8, 2008


I think this response to the article is excellent.
posted by sophie at 4:58 AM on July 9, 2008


Yeah. You read that, rr?
posted by klangklangston at 9:49 AM on July 9, 2008


Sophie -- thanks for that post. That's a great article. (I wish I had found it.)
posted by wittgenstein at 2:11 PM on July 9, 2008


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