Section 8 outcry
nRecipients speak out against
stigmatizing press and government
Lancaster, CA - Recently, Section 8 recipients, owners, and activists approached the microphone at the public comments section of the Lancaster Neighborhood Vitalization Commission meeting. The predominantly African American audience members listened intently to the commissioners deliberate and discuss the new policies that will potentially affect low-income migrants and Section 8 recipients.
Contract Service Manager Lee D’errico and Councilwoman Sherry Marquez have proposed changes to Section 8 regulation for the Lancaster area, including extending criminal background checks of applicants from three years to five years.
The president of the Antelope Valley Coalition Against Injustice, Rev. V. Jesse Smith, addressed the commissioners, challenging the group to take a stand against Section 8’s negative press.
“Not everyone on Section 8 is a criminal and not everyone on Section 8 abuse that system… Anyone who seems to be on Section 8 and is found to abuse it is pushed up in the newspaper… give a fair perspective,” Smith told the Commission. “You guys are charged with the responsibility of creating a program and making it appear to the Lancaster community that you are for Section 8 and you want to reform it, but the way in which you are reforming, unfortunately, is scaring a lot of tenants because they feel they are going to be a target right now.”
He also added that the Antelope Valley Press seems to stigmatize a minuscule population of Section 8 African Americans who are criminals and abuse the system, painting an image of gang-banging, system beating, poor Black people.
Emmett Murrell, Executive Director of Murrell’s Farm and Boys’ Home, said the mayor is using public housing as a campaign tool.
“This is flat out racism,” Murrell said. “It is the one reason that Rex Parris is certain that if he can villainize Section 8 residents and have people believe they are the criminal element, it enhances his ability to be re-elected.”
He and others believe Lancaster’s Mayor Rex Parris is attempting to push Section 8 housing out of the city. According to the Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles, in 2008, a total of 3,427 families were receiving benefits. As of February 2010, 3,800 families are receiving benefits.
Since Parris took office, residents have seen significant changes, not necessarily for the better.
With the election of Parris, Smith says he has seen Section 8 issues rise.
“I’ve see that it has gotten worse,” Smith commented. “His whole position is that he thinks (Section 8) should be bulldozed down. And with that, he correlates Section 8 with crime. To me there is no correlation.”
For the last few years, Section 8 has been on the “concerns” list for the Antelope Valley. According to Smith, conservative homeowners are crying the loudest against the influx of Section 8 recipients.
“White people feel this is their community to protect,” Murrell said. “And the way to protect it is to keep us (Black people) from coming in.”
Local residents have voiced their resentful views in public forums, through AV Press as well as online arenas, saying Section 8 recipients are “bringing their riffraff to the area.” The fight to preserve public housing and community identity wages on.
The Antelope Valley has been battered by negative press regarding complaints of discrimination and abuse of power on part of authorities in Section 8 housing. A lawsuit was filed by a local organization, The Community Action League (TCAL) in conjunction with the local chapter of the NAACP brought the concerns to light.
Since the issue was made public, the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors decided to suspend funding for Section 8 investigators for both Palmdale and Lancaster until a thorough investigation was completed.
LOS ANGELES, Calif.—The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors went behind closed doors today to discuss funding for investigations into Section 8 housing fraud in Lancaster and Palmdale amid allegations of racial discrimination.
The county stopped funding for the probes in June, instituting a 90-day moratorium when allegations of racism were raised.
More than $5 million has been awarded to public housing agencies in California to supply permanent housing and case management for the state’s 2 million veterans, said Eric K. Shinseki, secretary of veterans affairs. The announcement was made recently.
“This initiative will strengthen our ongoing efforts to eliminate veteran homelessness by 2015 and improve quality of life for veterans,” Shinseki said.
LANCASTER, Calif.—It’s official. The cities of Lancaster and Palmdale are being sued by community members and Section 8 residents for alleged discrimination against Blacks and Latinos in public housing.
According to the complaint filed Tuesday by the Community Action League and the NAACP, as well as two private members of the community, the cities named have discriminated against Section 8 families by implementing policies that directly affect the living quality of Blacks and Latinos.
LOS ANGELES, Calif.—An Antelope Valley community group sued Lancaster and Palmdale officials today, alleging the cities engaged in practices meant to drive out Black and Latino residents.
The complaint was filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on behalf of the Community Action League, the California State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and two unidentified residents who allegedly faced racial discrimination.