As the dust settles on the reconstructed city of Santa Ramona Valley, citizens and officials alike have been returning and examining the new layout of some sections of their city. One of the questions that lingered for Brother Wyatt Langham on his recent survey of the city was the idea of Public Housing- where is it?
Federal Government supports over two million people around the country in public housing. 39% are likely to stay for five years or more, 16% are seniors, 36% are disabled people.
California is well known to be the most expensive state to live in, in the US. The rents are high, the price of buying a home today is beyond most people's means. People's incomes have not risen in accord so while home values sky rocket and rents increase, people's wages are not following this pattern and affordable housing is rare these days.
New housing and development is at a slow and steady pace but not matching demand for affordable housing and housing in general. This keeps demand for housing high, leaving landlords and homeowners able to rent or sell at higher rates. Homelessness has grown excessively.
Public Housing and Section 8 housing exist in California but with the sharp increase of homelessness, it is woefully inadequate to answer the state's issue with people without shelter. Low income areas in cities in California like in other states are under threat of being gentrified with low income residents being forced out so that developers can build and sell properties to the rich.
And it is only the rich that can afford today's prices in terms of housing.
It is difficult for many young people to own or even rent somewhere. The city of Santa Ramona is an actual paradigm of a Californian city with clear disparity between the economic groups that either thrive or just about survive within it's boundaries.
The North side has it's clean streets, it's expensive housing and well maintained lawns. Well kept buildings and pleasant store fronts overlook the streets and roads of this affluent sector.
The South side lies marked out as if by deliberate city planning by the Route 66 Highway overpass, designated to it's alloted area with unclean streets and destitute and empty store fronts, garbage collecting in front of residences, businesses and badly maintained buildings. It's beach is unlike the sparkling sands of the North side. The General Hospital is a good distance from this side of the city, situated as it is in the North side opposite a community pool, a row of fine dining eateries and restaurants, bars and boutiques.
Rodents in the South side scurry in and out between cracks, the subterranean area is a popular place for them as well as the addicts and homeless who seek out a quiet place to either fix up or sleep, out of sight of law enforcement.
There are real efforts being made to engage this impoverished community- such as the South side Clinic and the Halfway House established in the streets near by the Wharf but these institutes address the mental health and addiction issues this community suffers from as well as seeking to reintegrate members from criminal backgrounds into society.
Where is the public housing in Santa Ramona Valley? It is clear there are some low cost housing available but it is also clear that some people cannot even afford these rates.
Public Housing some argue is a slightly more complex issue for this city with some stating that the market cannot support it. Is this true? It seems to be from the people that Brother Langham discussed the topic with, everyone from the Mayor to the Doctor and Sheriff were clear that there were divisions in the city between North and South, affordable housing was an issue but also police tensions too with South side residents.
The members of the public spoken to did believe that the South side had been neglected in the new rebuild of the city and that a whole host of problems were likely to beset it in near future, not least the police presence there.
Earthquakes. flooding and wildfire have affected the budget of the State and this city. Federal grants were applied for and given to Governor Stone but this means that the poor are even less given any benefit when the city's infrastructure needs to be repaired for it to operate as normal and so our marginalized communities suffer in silence while roads are rebuilt, the overpass too and damages is fixed in the North side primarily or so it seems. The last known works in the South side have been under Mayor Villanova who mandated potholes be fixed in the South side.
Going forward housing costs will be a future threat to the Californian economy and it's citizens well being.
What are we going to do about it and how do we breach the disparity between these two sectors within our own city?
These are questions that we as citizens should demand answers to from our city authorities even if the answers are complex. We need to ask them because the poor deserve to be heard and seen and all our citizens entitled to adequate housing that shelters and provides families and individuals with a roof over their head and a place to sleep while protecting them from the rougher criminal elements that walk the streets at night. February 20th is Social Justice Day. Let us organize and rally to make our voices heard to the City Officials in support of a better and fairer future for all, not just some. Join Brother Langham outside of City Hall in a fight for better conditions in the South side, among them Public Housing.
~Brother Langham is the author of this piece and a firm believer in social justice, issues and equality. Reach out to him at the Mission on Dusty Trails Avenue if you want to find out more about organizing a protest or rally.