Housing

Image source: www.steinershow.org

On Friday, June 21, the Marc Steiner Show featured Lawrence Brown as he discussed his Indyreader essay entitled, "Avarice and Avatar in Charm City: Stepping Up the Fight Against Displacement and Dispossession." The discussion covered the historical antecedents of displacement and dispossession and turned to recent gentrification and displacement efforts in the Middle East and Greenmount West communities in Baltimore. The participants discussed strategies for confronting displacement and dispossession, including community organizing, anti-displacement as a fundamental principle, and changing the city charter from a strong mayor system to a council manager form of government to increase community voice and participation.

Vacant homes on Reisterstown Road in Park Heights. Photo by Casey McKeel.

Every Monday in the Park Heights neighborhood of Northwest Baltimore, groups of between two and fifteen residents meet to talk about one thing in particular: housing. Most are people who face eviction, foreclosure, forced home sales due to redevelopment, or unsafe or unhealthy conditions. Some have no problems at all; they just come to support others. What they are finding is that the housing situations they each face are not unique to them.

Bulldozers destroying indigenous land in the Hollywood film, Avatar. Image source: j-miin.tumblr.com

Throughout American history, landjacking has often been accompanied by violence, whether physical or structural. The James Cameron blockbuster movie Avatar illustrated how corporate interests use naked force as they attempted to landjack the home of the Na’vi, the indigenous population on the planet Pandora. What Avatar masterfully depicts are the methods that avaricious developers or corporation interests will use in order to extract resources and maximize profits.

Alicia Kirkland and Michele Decker (seated) at Trading Safety for Violence event. (Photo by Bonnie Lane)

I attended a serious event Wednesday called Trading Safety For Survival. The Facebook event depicts it as “A Conversation about Violence Against Women in the Sex Trade and the Police Who are Asked to Protect them.”

It was sponsored by Power Inside. According to their flyer, Power Inside is “a nonprofit program for women impacted by incarceration, street life and abuse. Our services help women build self-sufficiency, heal from violence and avoid future criminal justice contact.”

Photo Source: Rousseau_ist

Advocates for the homeless converged on City Hall on Wednesday night to discuss the future of the “Journey Home” plan to end homelessness. The occasion was a resolution introduced by Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, stating simply “That the Council calls on the City and external agencies concerned with homeless in Baltimore to appear before it to discuss the status of and proposals for any revisions to Baltimore City’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness.” Many of those who testified criticized a recent draft of the plan, as well as the process behind its production and implementation. Others used the forum to discuss Baltimore’s homelessness crisis and the City’s aggressive policy of evicting outdoor encampments.

Protesting the eviction of Camp 83. Photo By: The Marc Steiner Show

We have been covering the homeless encampment of people living under the Jones Falls Expressway near Madison and Fallsway right by the prison complex for the last several weeks. The city said they were going dismantle the site today, Friday March 8th, but before they could a regular citizen found the residents living there housing – temporary, good housing – that the City could not find them.

The Bab al-Shams encampment in the E-1 area overlooks Ma'ale Adumim, a settlement in the Israeli occupied West Bank. Image source: Lazar Simeonov/Al Jazeera.

This August will mark twenty years since the signing of the Oslo Accords, the first peace agreement between a Palestinian group and Israel. While the parties have signed a handful of agreements since then, arguably none have had an impact on the daily lives of people living on that land.

Image source: www.anteropietila.com

In “Not in my Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City,” former Sun reporter and editor Antero Pietila focuses in on one facet of Baltimore’s history: namely, how housing patterns have evolved in Baltimore City along racial and religious lines over the last hundred years. With a journalist’s eye for detail, Pietila describes many colorful characters involved in the real estate scene, including politicians, civic leaders, bureaucrats, homeowners, developers and agents. For local activists, the book provides food for thought about an issue that strikes close to home, if you will forgive the pun.

Clients form a line in the rear parking lot of the Weinberg Housing and Resource Center shelter waiting to get a bed. Photo by Dan Staples.

Actions speak louder than words. The words say “75 journeys home” for people experiencing homelessness in Baltimore. But what do the actions say? You might assume, as we did, that 75 journeys home means that the city has allocated new funding for 75 new apartments. You might think that funding for new housing vouchers is great news. However, at last count, over 4,000 people sleep on Baltimore’s streets each night. “75 Journeys Home” is less than 2% of the people who desperately need housing, but better than nothing.

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