I ask myself what was a 15 year old doing miles away from his home at 10pm on a school night? Why was he in an apartment that has an alleged reputation as a "safe haven for gang members and drug dealers"?
It's so puzzling and so senseless but the purpose of this post isn't to judge this boy or his parents. They will have to live forever questioning why this happened to their son and wondering if they could have prevented it.
As disturbing as it is that this boy lost his life, it is almost equally as disturbing that this act of violence took place in one of the city's housing projects.
In a recent blog post I asked, somewhat rhetorically, why do projects fail? I was amused when little more than a month later the Herald News reported "Housing Authority Lauded" an article that reported that the city's federally subsidized public housing developments have been given the high marks by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
High marks or not, the the city's housing projects too often appear in the news for all the wrong reasons. Gang fights at Watuppa Heights, a man shot to death at Sunset Hill, postal carriers allegedly assaulted near Heritage Heights and Maple Gardens, a woman murdered at Pleasant View. While thorough research may show that our projects are not the most dangerous places in Fall River, it's safe to assume that they're not the safest.
And that's a shame because the reality is, like it or not public housing is not going to go away and if you could magically do away with it you would just promote more crime, more homelessness, and more poverty. What is needed is more efforts to make public housing work.
Here's what I've been thinking:
- Seriously disruptive tenants must go, that means don't follow the rules, don't maintain your unit, encourage, allow or participate in illegal activities and you're hitting the street.
- Set up a 24hr. Housing Hot line so tenants can anonymously report troubles or concerns.
- Survey each housing project and install better lighting and security cameras as needed.
- Create or strengthen existing project tenant boards to allow more tenant participation in management decisions.
- Enforce the community service requirement act, which requires tenants of federally subsidized public housing to perform 8 hours of community service per month.
- Create community centers for each project. These centers can be staffed by qualified tenant volunteers and promote sports, crafts, community events (i.e. cookouts etc.) and daycare
- Institute yearly inspections for all units, to facilitate maintenance and help identify tenants who are guilty of neglecting their units.
- Consider adopting Charlotte, North Carolina's "Transitional Family" program.