From Public Housing To Homelessness

root - Posted on 18 December 2004

A single mother relates the horror story of displacement out of San Francisco Public Housing into Homelessness

by Tiny and Linda William

The deep sounds of never ending, mind-numbing,headache generating traffic bombarded the weather-beaten glass of the 6 motel (not to be confused with the pricier Motel 6), as I sat with displacement survivor and former Valencia Gardens tenant Linda William.

Driving up highway 80 East I kept referring to my friend and fellow PNN writer's careful directions, " Its sort of near Vallejo" she had said quietly on the phone, the weight of her horrendous dilemma flooding her voice, " I couldn't actually afford a motel in Vallejo, they were too expensive and all the cheap ones were filled" , she concluded wearily

It had been almost two years since Linda took the "sweet deal" offerred by Housing Authority to move out of her long-time residence at Valencia Gardens in San Francisco, Valencia being one of many hundreds of public housing projects in the Bay Area and across the nation labeled "bad" and targeted for "redevelopment" which resulted in the massive displacement of low-income tenants from public housing to essentially "a piece of paper" i.e., these tenants were handed a section 8 voucher and alot of promises of available market rate or privately owned low-income housing projects but ended up, like Linda, homeless, or as those of us in the know say; public housing was better than no housing, "they gave me a section 8 certificate and said I could go anywhere with it, of course I had always had a dream of moving out of the city with my 2 kids and I thought this was my big chance"

As Linda spoke the hairs stood up on the back of my neck, I, too, was relying on a pending section 8 certificate to stabilize the ever unstable housing of myself, my mother and my 9 month old son, but from all the recent reports out of the Bush administration, this "stable housing" might remain a dream.

"So with that certificate I started the search for housing in Vallejo, Fairfield and Marin, "Linda continued her story unphased by my uh huhs and head nodding, "well whaddya know, I found closed wait lists on almost all the low-income housing units in all of those places and all the rest of the landlords wouldn't even return my calls when I told them I had section 8" As Linda continued to explain how she transferred her certificate to Alameda County hoping for better luck in Oakland, I remembered the hideously classist and racist experience of trying to find an apartment when I told landlords that I was on section 8, "Ohhhhh noooo, I don't think so" they would say, dreams of welfare moms dancing in their collective land-holding heads.

"Eventually, I found a place in the middle of so much gang-mess, that one of my babies almost got shot last month, so I gave up and moved to this motel and now my section 8 worker is telling me that it doesn't matter anyway, cause due to the Bush-inspired cuts they probably won't have any money left in the section 8 program to fund another apartment for me anyway…and I'll end up homeless….." her voice trailed off into sadness and the whoosh of the highway filled the rooms silence

Linda was referring to the very serious cuts that the Section 8 program is facing due to the Bush Adminstrations' cuts to the program of 1.6 billion causing places like New York city to lose millions of dollars for existing section 8 vouchers and Alameda County not having enough money in May to even cover the rents of vouchers already in use.

"and now I hear that people are being offerred more sweet deals by housing authority to move out of the Bayview so rich people like Newsom and his buddies can make big bucks redeveloping the Bayview…."Linda paused to hold back an onslaught of tears, " all I can say to those folks is; Don't be fooled.. Hold onto what you have… Valencia Gardens had its problems, but it was still my home…it was still housing…"

To tell your story of eviction or displacement call PNN at (415) 863-6306 , to get involved in fighting the redevelopment effort of the Bayview call Bianca Henry at Family rights and Dignity (415) 346-3740,


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