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“Innocent Bystander Shot at 1300 Block of Columbia and A Fatal Stabbing at Gresham and Georgia”

by Prince Of Petworth February 25, 2009 at 11:35 pm 71 Comments

IMG_3468, originally uploaded by Prince of Petworth.

Just received an email from Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham:

“Dear Friends, I have just returned from 14th and Columbia, where a short time ago shots were fired on the 1300 block of Columbia. An innocent bystander was sitting in her car, which was about to be parked, when a bullet penetrated the chassis and struck her in the leg.

The 1300 block of Columbia has been heavily patrolled with a squad car and a light tower present since Paul Jones was shot in January. (His alleged, barely 18 year old murderer was with this and another murder and is now in jail.)

Indeed, just last night, I attended a community meeting with MPD on the violence at 1300 block of Columbia.

However, another tragedy tonight–a fatal stabbing at Gresham and Georgia–led to the officer on the 1300 block being pulled to the location of that homicide. (There are very good leads, I am told in thta case.)

In the brief time that followed–when the police were not there, and the light tower was still dark–shots were fired and the person was wounded.

This has all the earmarks of more gang violence.

More information will be revealed as it becomes available.”

Good grief, it almost makes you want to weep out of frustration.  I do wonder why they couldn’t have left the light tower on?  It seems absolutely crazy.  Do you think the shooters were just waiting for the moment the cops were gonna leave?

  • anon

    This is I think the third time I’ve heard this “excuse” for a shooting in the area. I’m not buying. Something different has to be tried in this area, beyond just having a stationary police car sitting near the Dunkin’ Donuts until either violence happens or they are called away. First of all, the conglomeration of huge section 8 high rises in a very small space will ALWAYS make this attractive to gangs. The city has to do what Chicago did and demolish some of the biggest, most dangerous buildings and replace them with mixed-use buildings that will bring a retail presence to this corridor to bridge the gap between Florida Ave. and Irving St., bringing a lot more legitimate activity to the area, and have mixed-income housing so that there are not only section 8 folks living here. May be tough in this climate but start the planning now so the city is ready to go once the economy rebounds, can basically gift land ot developers who promise to maintain half of the units for low income and bring in retail. Also need true community policing that is more proactive about getting involved with these long standing blood-war feuds. But the situation as it currently exists is untenable, it is bad enough when these guys shoot each other, but when innocent bystanders get taken down, that is even more troubling. This corridor needs to be re-imagined.

  • Take5

    anon – you hit the nail on the head. Thats what they have done in New Jersey, and other cities too. That area between 14th and Georgia is way too over concentrated from Clifton all the way up to Park Rd. Unfortunately, there is going to be 2 more 100% affordable apartment buildings on Georgia Avenue. I at the corner of Lamont and the other at Kenya. This city has a vocal pro-very affordable voice, but everyone is afraid to say they are against something because its too concentrated for fear of being called a gentrifier.

  • Hoodrat

    just asking – what section 8 high rise is near georgia and gresham?

  • Anonymous

    I was just thinking the other day that with all the shootings it would only be a matter of time before a stray bullet hit an innocent. Also Anon is right. demo all the section 8. none of the residents would even have to be displaced. simply put higher density buildings in their place. gift the land for free to developers willing to put up buildings with 4x the units. Sell 3/4s of them and allow the 1/4 back to the original inhabitants of the section 8. A lot of the crime I really do believe has to do with a section 8 mindset. Its like the residents are on display. Im pretty sure a mixed use model of affordable housing has been proven to make the low income residents feel more a part of the community etc. seems like a no brainer to me.

  • Neener

    1. Shut down the community centers that breed gangs and create new community centers staffed entirely by non-DC residents who don’t put up with drugs and gangs because they were in gangs before they became teachers.
    2. Shut down public housing/Section 8 in Columbia Heights.

    Both experiments have failed and can no longer be supported. This is not a case of modifying the slums, but simply razing the slums.

    DC has felt no ill effects of the recession. We are hiring about 21 people as programmers, project managers, DBAs, safety and security experts. Whatever degree these people have in public housing can be put to good use in DC- even liberal arts or library degrees. Shut down the public housing simply to save lives.

  • Anonymous

    They don’t have to be displaced… but where do they go while their building is being torn down and rebuilt?

    I don’t like the Sec. 8s either, but you can’t just tear down the building and tell everyone to find somewhere else to be.

    (Doesn’t D.C. have a bad enough homeless problem as it is?)

  • Anonymous

    excellent idea neener. Now that the latte drinkers have moved in. lets just send the already marginalized a packing. let them go cause havok somewhere not near a dog park or starbucks. or we could try and correct the problem instead of sweeping it out to pg county to be someone elses problem? just a thought

  • Columbia Heights Dude

    Anon: The “latte drinkers” pay the taxes that keep these section 8 projects running. Since we pay for them(I like lattes),we get to have a say. TEAR THEM DOWN!

  • Jimmy D

    Any word on the condition of the victim? This is a pretty terrible thing. Thoughts to the victim and her family.

  • Your a pickle and I am 2

    I agree with Neener. Just tear the damn things down already. I don’t care where they go. Why should I worry about someone who doesn’t even care about themselves? If they cared they would be out getting a degree or participating in serious vocational training to improve their own lot in life. My taxes shouldn’t support these idiots. I would much rather see assistance given towards the middle class in DC. They are the ones most in need when it comes to housing and they are pushed out to Moco and Nova when neighborhoods become unaffordable.

  • DCDireWolf

    A large majority of section 8 residents are law abiding citizens, many employed but without the education or training to move up, or children. A small, but obviously dangerous and active minority of teenagers spoils the bunch. Razing section 8 housing and forcing moves and dispersing a community of residents is an overreaction and a bad idea.

    Instead, there should be a zero tolerance policy within section 8 housing for illegal drugs or non-registered guns. Why not enforce the laws on the books that allow an expedited eviction for any tenant found to have either in their premises? Yeah, I realize that this will force out a few grandmothers who have no idea or no power to keep their grandkids from using their apartments as storage lockers for the instruments of violence, but hopefully it would get rid of some of the bad apples and force tenants to stand up to some as well.

    But like it or not, these gang members, and the law abiding, decent people living in public housing are our neighbors. You cant’ wish them away or mass deport them to the suburbs or east of Georgia Avenue. We need to come up with real, workable solutions for everyone involved.

    As for the police and councilmember Graham, I’ve given up hope. We don’t have enough cops to have one walking the beat on Columbia and another one in a car heading over to Georgia and Gresham on a call? How many more murders where police are right across the street in their squad car but don’t do jack shit to prevent the crime. Meanwhile, Graham posts a message to the internet while on a junket to El Salvador or gets his slimy ass staff members to do it, and brags about leads to solve the crime yet nobody spends any resources on PREVENTING the crimes.

    Rant over.

  • Stephanie

    Not that I’m advocating keeping the Section 8 housing up, but I don’t think it’s quite as simple as “Tear the housing down and the crime’ll stop”: http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200807/memphis-crime

  • DCDireWolf

    Ahhh, the favorite sport of folks during recessions. Vilify the poor.

  • Stephanie


    @DCDireWolf: Amen.

  • Columbia Heights Dude

    DCDireWolf: You make a good point. Perhaps a strict zero tolerance policy is a more plausible first step.

  • Columbia Heights Dude

    I grew up poor, very poor. This is about crime and the rule of law. Being poor does not make you a criminal.

  • Steve

    Armegeddon is surely here…I agree with DDW! If you can’t obey the law, no soup for you!

  • Steve

    Nate…you out there? In the past Nate has had some interesting comments on the lack of connectivity/functioning between the the housing authority and the police department. DDW’s thought is a good one, but Nate can through a good bit of how in reality the system works….or rather doesn’t work.

  • NAB

    Ok, noting that large concentrations of poverty in a particular area may increase crime in that particular area may is miles away from villifying the poor.

    Also, that Atlantic article had a lot of anecdotal info that needs to be taken for what it is. If a neighborhood on the edge of town goes from no murders a year to a couple a year and that happens to be coincidental with going from no poor people in the neighborhood to a few poor people, that hardly chips away at the notion that concentrated public housing should instead be a mix of incomes.

  • NAB

    All that said, I must congratulate Hoodrat on a good zinger.

  • NAB

    All that said, I must congratulate Hoodrat on a good zinger.

  • LanierHts

    This concept of “displacement” is relative. Do these section 8 people have an ancestral right to the land they live on? Last time I checked, there isn’t a large indigenous Native American community in DC. They live there because it’s cheap. Give them a cheap place to live anywhere and they’ll go. Ex: Old Town Alexandria.

  • NAB


    What mayor in his right mind is going to be responsible for displacing grandma just cause her grandkid stored some dope or a piece in her coat closet? Can you imagine what that would look like on the local news? We need to be realistic here.

  • DCDireWolf

    NAB, the law is already on the books. When I worked in landlord-tenant court in DC Superior Court, I watched many a grandma come in and plead that she didn’t know, or couldn’t do anything about, her evil grandsons and his friends. Grams got evicted, every single time. It’s a bit draconian, but nearly as draconian as razing entire buildings and deporting all the residents.

  • ontarioroader

    NAB: unfortunately ‘realistic’ also includes the fact that no mayor or council member will get elected/reelected if they propose any kind of zero tolerance policy toward any criminal activity. A huge percentage of us long-time residents have friends or family that have been locked up for some period of time. It all comes back to “I want a reduction in criminal activity on my block, but my kid is a good kid and could never have done something bad like the police are accusing him of”. Politicians can’t even push through an anti-loitering law here with the exception of the watered-down temporary posted ‘no loitering zones’ that I can pretty much guarantee won’t result in any arrests.

  • Anonymous

    neener- with that pathetic, short-sighted, ignorant, response you just farted out. One wonders how you would have turned out if you had the same upbringing as these kids in section 8.

  • Neener

    explain how either process I complain about is not resulting in deaths. The deaths are listed for all to see.

  • Neener

    or we could try and correct the problem instead of sweeping it out to pg county to be someone elses problem? just a thought

    you have listed no thought above. I am waiting for your first thought. Please educate us to YOUR SOLUTION to the problem. until then I must correct you- you have listed no thought at all let alone, “just a thought.”

    I am very eager to hear other proposals, but you have not proposed anything.

  • not telling

    The housing projects need to come down. It was a social experiment that didn’t work. New mixed-income housing has worked fairly well in Chicago and other places. No not all low-income residents are criminals, but crime does congregate in areas of dense low income.

  • Neener

    In 1995 there was a series of armed robberies on my block. I had never seen anything like it ever. We were in total fear as people were getting beaten up over $20.

    The police arrested the culprit. Grandma two blocks away had taken in her 18 year old grandson from SE to keep him out of trouble. I even knew about this story from a neighbor who had asked us, as renters, if we had any work for this kid. This was my very first experience with the ignorance perpetrated by the older generation in DC that results in the violent deaths of DC residents.

    The kid didn’t need to be kept away from the bad element, he WAS THE BAD ELEMENT.

    After seeing a 35 year old woman walk her kids around with a bandage on her face where this grandson broke her nose with the butt of a gun in an ugly misogynistic attack, I have no pity for these misogynistic, misanthropic creeps. you don’t get a college degree and can’t take care of yourself? You lose the right to live in DC. tough sh*t.

  • Neener

    I mean, I want to live in Hawaii. Can I live in Hawaii? No, it’s too expensive. tough sh*t for me, you know?

  • Nate

    Same people doing the same old thing. That applies to not just the shooters/stabbers. But to the people in the community as well. For years we have been given the same lip service to fixing this problem. Politicians stay elected on the promises while living in tranquility. Some of us even buy the Hope and community organizing spiel. No city has ever ridden itself from crime. The mentality of someone crazed enough to kill you does not change.

  • Stephanie

    @NAB: Sorry, I didn’t mean to make it sound like that article was holy text or something, but it does bring up valid points. Sure, you can tear down the Section 8 housing, build new housing and offer a quarter of the housing to the original residents, but where are the other three-fourths going to go? So sure, there may be less crime in the immediate ‘hood, but instead of working on the problem, we just end up shoving the problem over in PG County. “Let’s just let the crime be Hyatsville’s problem!”

    And like a few commenters have pointed out, most of the people in the housing projects are law-abiding citizens who just may have not had the chance to go to college and can’t afford the ridiculously high cost of living in this city (because it’s tough enough for someone like me WITH a degree) and need the subsidized housing.

    While there’s not really a simple solution, tougher crime enforcement would help. And unfortunately enough, the older generation doesn’t always help. You see a drug dealer on your corner, Grandma still sees little Pookie who she used to give cookies to (think of how many times your grandparents still acted like you were 8 when you were HS, college, etc.) and refuses to believe that he was the one who mugged you on your walk home from the Metro.

    Anyway, apologies if my thoughts are a little jumbled and/or I’ve contradicted myself.

  • Nate

    You want to get rid of crime you either have to change the people or move to an area where there is no crime. Nothing is going to change some people. This is not a racist post. But someone needs to be able to objectively study and determine why young black males are shooting people (mainly themselves).

    We have our heads so deep in the sand. To illustrate, there will be some white people accuse me of being racist when they likely feel the same way. It has to be acknowledged that certain people within the AA community are unable to live around other people. We need to have an Eric Holder moment and talk honestly to come to a solutionto stop a minority of people (mainly young black men) ruining it for everyone.

  • Anonymous

    Stephanie: you increase denisity. The new place has 4x as many units, the 90% law abiding former residents fit in 25% set-aside. Normally, the 90% are so displaced during construction that many don’t end up coming back and that’s too bad, but no solution to this bad policy of concentrating multi-generational poverty is perfect. The miscreants who thrive in the current, obvious, stigmatized section 8 warehouses can’t survive in 75% market-rate buildings because that 75% will demand police attention, and will get it. NIMBYs next door, upstairs and downstairs is your solution.

  • Anonymous

    For once, I agree with DCDW. Practically speaking, no politician in his right mind would try, or even be able, to raze entire blocks of housing, and even if he did, it would be tied up in the courts for years. It also would be alarmist and inhumane to do so. But there already are strict conditions on living in these properties, often zero tolerance, and they just aren’t enforced. Vigorous enforcement of the existing rules could do much to alleviate the situation — the gateway to throw the bums out, but not the baby with the bathwater, if you care to mix metaphors. I’m fairly sure that DCHA even has its own police department, like Metro, which if expanded and given that mandate could maybe effect some change. Even with the limited resources, however, you would think that any enforcement efforts might start on this and the surrounding blocks, which have been plagued by violent crime. I know some of the grandmothers and baby brothers and sisters would be adversely impacted, but maybe getting the yahoo in their house under control would be more pressing if they knew it was going to cost them the roof over their head (and maybe the yahoo might feel bad about doing that to granny, too).

    I do have to say, however, to the crowd that advances the “this is crew-on-crew violence that won’t affect the law-abiding citizen” argument: here’s Exhibit A why I disagree. Exhibit B was the senseless retaliatory shoot-em-up of the rec center after last month’s shooting in the area. The spillover effect of this violence does hurt people, and not just in their property value (though that happens, too — check out the GDON from this week at on 1400 block of Girard).

  • anon

    I think there needs to be a variety of solutions. Sure, enforce current laws on the books, but that is just not going to be enough (and why should we believe enforcement is magically going to improve, anyway?). So long as there is an intense conglomeration of this type of housing, there will be a high concentration of crime. We saw it in Chicago with Robert Taylor homes and Cabrini Green (both now gone) and we see it in this one area of NW D.C. where housing is so concentrated … make this trouble spot more diverse, and spread public housing out in a more diffuse fashion, and things should improve at least a little rather than a permanent hotspot that just attracts gun violence and always will due to the cycle of retribution.

    Oh, and as for Graham’s excuse, three hours passed between these incidents. So I’m not buyin’


  • Neener

    See my take on it is that too many police, even in zero tolerance situations, feel pity for their cousin or childhood friend accused of these crimes and they never get on the books to be affected by zero tolerance.

    10 years ago there was a father the police would go to who enforced the rules with his kids. the kids never got arrested and when trouble sprang up, the dad kept it down. 10 years later, the dad has abandoned his family and the 25 year old men sell drugs with impugnity. Had they ended up in a work farm in high school could they have gotten their heads straight outside this sick DC subculture?

    Zero tolerance only works when arrests work and when drugs are stuffed in trash cans in an alley it’s very very hard for the police to catch anyone for possession. So people get “picked up” and “let go” 3 hours later.

  • Adams Morgan

    The folks who live in the apartments that you all want torn down have just as much right to live there as you new folks do. No more, no less (although one could argue that those who have been there for generations have a bit more right).

    Also, people on this list do know the difference between Section 8 and Public Housing right?

    BTW, could someone please explain to me what “all the earmark of gang violence” are that the Grahamstander hysterically listed in his email? A shooting doesn’t automatically make it gang-related, even if this is a known area for crews.

    Oh and LanierHts, a) I’m embarrassed to call you a neighborh and b) you might want to visit Old Town a bit more, there is quite a bit of public housing in the area.

  • Cliff

    Mixed income housing has proven to reduce crime. Its not an assult on the poor, its a fact of the benefits of integrating society. Problem is some communities fight against having 1/3 of a development affordable for fear of reduced property values (which is a myth) so cities end up forcing all low income into 1 area. I agree there is too much concentration in this particular section, but hopefully with the redevelopment of Park Morton – where all residents will get to move back into a mixed incomecommunity – and mixed income coming to Bruce Monroe, maybe some of the denser developments will b scaled back and have market rate units added.

  • Immigrant

    Like some people here have said the crime will not go away. It will always be someone’s problem. I lived in the suburbs for most of my life since moving to America and over the yrs my middle class neighborhood turned into a ghetto. People from DC and PG County changed the climate for the worse. Before this migration from DC and PG there was no gang violence or drug related violence now you have to watch your back on every corner. My high school in 4 yrs went from being the high school of the future to having the second lowest SAT scores in the county. In the SUBURBS!

    What I am trying to say is that DC is not the problem, the ghettos or locations are not the problem. The PEOPLE are the problem, who turn a neighborhood into a ghetto. The lack of opportunity is not a problem. If my family which did not speak a word of English before moving here in 1991 could survive and become a middle class family, not be a sore on the economy but actually pay taxes why cant the people that are born here in USA and speak the language do it? All I hear are excuses from these individuals (thugs) and their sympathizers about how bad it is for them. Try coming form a 3rd world country which is at war and you have no control over it as a civilian. These people are so far off from reality of life that they don’t realize that THEY are the problem and create their own problems. How can you be on welfare or accept section 8 when the economy had an unemployment of 4%, where illegal immigrants are striving without speaking a lick of English or without a single valid USA issued document. How is this possible? Someone explain this to me. These people have to realize that they are a problem for society so that they can move on and better them selves. They have to learn from birth what honest work is, not how to scam the government and everyone around you.

    I say we keep the illegal immigrants who are at Home Depot every morning and all day looking for work and get rid of these good for nothing thugs.

    I had to vent. But seriously getting rid of sec 8 and integrating them into society is the way to go. But also if someone is getting government aide there should be strict guidelines of not drug use, no violence in the family, good grades in school, etc…NO MORE FREE RIDE without anything to show for it.

  • CP

    Adams Morgan, that’s just not true. People who cannot afford to live, whose housing is paid for by my tax dollars, who not only break the law, but also break the rules of their apartment community, haven’t got any right to live there. I do not want to pay for their lives, and if they commit crimes, they should be put out on the street.

    Letting people grow up in a world of no consequences, in which everything is handed to them, has given birth to a sick group of people who do not even know how to live — they cannot support themselves and derive pleasure from depriving others of their rights.

  • Nate

    Sure mixed income housing reduces crime. If I mix my propensity to not commit crime with your propensity TO commit crime, then in reality, crime decreased 50% per capita. Very simplistic example. Now what happens to the guy I replaced? He likely continues his march east to Petworth, NE, SE, then to PG County. Crime doesn’t go down. The criminals are simply dispersed.

  • Immigrant

    Adams Morgan, Living in a location for a long time gives one no more or no less rights. If so then you can take back all the thugs living in my parents neighborhood now.

  • Adams Morgan

    CP: People on this thread are advocating that *everyone* who lives in those buildings be removed…*everyone*. My point was that many (not all) of those folks have as much right to be in the neighborhood as you do.

    Immigrant: I said “one could argue” I didn’t say I was arguing.

    Also, can we ALL agree to stop using the totally lame, and totally hollow argument of “my tax dollars pays for this….”

  • Anonymous

    And just one more note on the issue of actually enforcing the rules that attach to living in some of these units and putting out people with violators in their homes. If you create incentives for granny or whomever to try to take control of what happens in her home and she actually does it, well … cops need probable cause and a search warrant to find the gun/drugs/evidence under the bed or in the closet, granny does not.

  • Immigrant


    Problem is that grannys think that the system is against them as do I sometimes. I doubt that will work.

  • NAB

    DDW: you said that in your experience “granny” does get evicted, yet the reason why we have violence in high density public housing is that the rules aren’t enforced. So is granny getting evicted or not?

  • DCDireWolf

    When the eviction cases are brought, granny gets ousted. My point is that not very many of those cases are being brought.

  • NAB

    And whose fault is that?

  • christopher

    amen immigrant! i often marvel at the ability of some people to strive and rise above, while other people just wallow in their own self pity and blame the man for their problems. youre only a victim as much as you allow yourself to be!

  • NateG


    This is DC baby! If you cant handle the heat, get out of the kitchen! Move to Ballston!

  • Anonymous

    The answer does not have to be either ridding of all the Section 8 in CH or none. Close one, at least, to send a message of progress. Perhaps this disruption will be enough to help curb the violence.

  • Cliff

    “If I mix my propensity to not commit crime with your propensity TO commit crime, then in reality, crime decreased 50% per capita”

    Nate – that’s not the way the reasoning hashes out. It’s more about opportunity and how it relates to a persons choice to commit a crime. If all the poor live in one area then there is less opportunity, and someone who has no opportunity is more likely to commit crime than someone with opportunity. Why struggle to find a job across town when I can deal drugs locally? ColHgts has changed a lot in 10 years, the ratio is still out of balance – which is why there needs to be more mixed income development to support the businesses other people can work at. I’m not talking about the guy who has given up on himself, but there are a lot of people who would not choose to steel if they had more options. Mixed income development helps break this cycle.

    Ballston is a great example, nearly everything built there reserves 1/3 for affordable, and there are no 100% section 8 or affordable buildings. They have won awards for this…

  • Nate

    A few years back a g’mother was “raising” her grandson. The grandson was caught with some crack or other drug. She faced eviction from Sec 8 program. A couple of councilmembers took up her case and kept her from getting evicted due to HUD’s own guidelines. This is one of the rare cases where DCHA (worst gov’t agency in DC) actually acted. I’m sure less than 1% of DC’s Sec 8 tenants are evicted for the lawbreaking of the people on their lease.

    Now I am all for legalizing drugs. But if someone on your lease is accused of engaging in an activity that causes crime and violence, then I say you need to at least be paying your own way and not living on the gov’t dime.

  • Nate

    Nate – that’s not the way the reasoning hashes out. It’s more about opportunity and how it relates to a persons choice to commit a crime. If all the poor live in one area then there is less opportunity, and someone who has no opportunity is more likely to commit crime than someone with opportunity. Why struggle to find a job across town when I can deal drugs locally? ColHgts has changed a lot in 10 years, the ratio is still out of balance – which is why there needs to be more mixed income development to support the businesses other people can work at. I’m not talking about the guy who has given up on himself, but there are a lot of people who would not choose to steel if they had more options. Mixed income development helps break this cycle.

    Ballston is a great example, nearly everything built there reserves 1/3 for affordable, and there are no 100% section 8 or affordable buildings. They have won awards for this…

    Cliff your response is the reason why we have taken the same approach for the last 30 years. Noone wants to live next to these people. Well some people may derive a measure of joy of the danger. But most people that live near this would move if they could. I don’t want to continue the liberals experiment of living next to people that refuse to work. Mendelsohn is all for affordable housing and living in mixed income communities FOR YOU. I’m sure there is little in his neighborhood.

    DC has more opportunity in the worst part of SE than I had in my hometown. Yet, I never shot, robbed, or killed anyone. Let’s stop making excuses and creating reasons for people that are acting like animals.

  • New Hampy

    DC is the posterchild for absent personal responsibilty

  • Steve

    New Hampy, actually it is preceeded by New Orleans and perhaps the entire state of Louisiana!

  • Neener

    What people NEED TO UNDERSTAND is that there is a LIBERAL SOLUTION to the welfare problem. Being disgusted by people who are capable of working should not be something that is owned by right wing freaks.

    I have written this story many times. My wife had an assistant who was an angry young black man mad at the world and “the man.” He really did not belong in an office environment and he hated it and hated community college and hated being told what to do by everyone. After about a year of this, and my wife mentioning that he painted houses hint hint, I ask the guy at a party why he was angry working for the man and why didn’t he paint houses for a living. Some of this gets vague, but over a period of about 6 months I laid out his business plan for him- He goes to his grandmother’s and aunt’s churches and meets people and puts up offers to paint people’s rooms for half the price that the big companies charged (I think he was doing it at $200 per room plus supplies, maybe more). If he had big jobs, he would hire people from home depot and pay them $20 per hour for 6 hours and make $80 profit on each room or something like that.

    Some time later he quits his job and starts painting houses full-time. He cut his hair, took out his braids, and was going to church every sunday to meet potential customers. He may be classically uneducated, which is inexcusable in this city, but he wasn’t stupid. If he kept “working for the man” he was going to end up angry all the time as well as BEHOLDEN TO THE MAN. As it was, the last I heard, he OWNED HIS OWN BUSINESS.

    Isn’t it the height of liberalism to suggest that the underclass, that people from once-oppressed minorities, be allowed to grow and prosper and become middle or upper middle class?

    Now, let me tell a personal story. My parents never wanted me moving back home. Neither of us liked the problems with rules. When I was 21 I moved out. I had to work 2 and one time even three jobs to keep up with rent, car payments and other costs. At one point I was only working one part time job in college and literally lived on $30 of food per week. For about two months I lived on nothing but rice, beans, potatoes, onions, carrots, cheese, spaghetti and tomato sauce. I was too poor to buy RAMEN and then got a job where I could get free food at night. After the absolute fear that came with abject poverty, where my bus fare was my biggest expense of the day I said- NEVER AGAIN! Right now I have one main job, one part time contract that pays about $140 per hour, and am working to get an additional part time contract in the $100 per hour range. I will never again allow myself to get that poor.

    My cousin, on the other hand, was allowed to move home to pay off his credit cards and you know, once he paid them off he bought a Nintendo and games. he could afford HBO in the basement. He bought an Acura. then he moved to LA and then moved back, living with parents again. Right now, today, he’s unmarried, makes roughly $60k, rents an apartment, has no car and is 36 years old. I’m not quite making twice what he makes, own a house, car, have a family, etc.

    If you were to ask me what made me want to have afterwork and weekend contracts, my first comment would be that I was NEVER going to let poverty happen to me again. My cousin has just as much suggested that he knows his parents will leave him their house when they retire so he’s not bothering to buy a house in this market. How that relates (or doesn’t) to him getting dates as a 32 year old still living with Mom or now a 36 year old living in an apartment, I don’t know.

    What inspired me to do more is desperation. I firmly believe that the section 8 housing and welfare related government assistance has ruined the drive of a solid percentage of people in poverty. They need to get out of the mindset of “working for their betters” and get into the liberal mindset that they are real people capable of making their own good decisions for themselves and their family.

    Kids’ sanity must be preserved. Kids should not live in a station wagon. But providing Section 8 housing filled with criminals has been proven to not help children whose parents made really dumb mistakes.

    I actually really believe that we need to look closely at “weekday boarding schools” like KIPP and others who take smart kids OUT OF A HOMELIFE WHERE PARENTS ARE REALLY DUMB and put them in places where smart, educated people guide their development during the week and they spend Sat/Sun with Mom and Dad. I think that makes much more sense than Section 8 housing warehousing the poor the way the republicans want it.

  • Neener

    What I mean by the mindset of “working for their betters” is that people in poverty sometimes are told to start at the bottom and work up. But culturally many if not most of them will NEVER work up. We just had a receptionist tell our CEO on Friday to “Talk to the hand ‘cuz the ears aren’t listening” and she burst into tears when he fired her on the spot. Just had a breakdown repeating something she clearly saw as culturally ok that no one in a million years would consider culturally ok. Just asinine behavior.

    But if you are part of a community that thinks asinine behavior is ok, then by all means, build your success on top of that community that you’re a part of. That’s the story behind every millionaire rock star, basically. But don’t try to shoe horn people into working at CVS when they should own their own Christian book store.

  • Anonymous

    Wholeheartedly agree that making availible QUALITY, FREE BOARDING SCHOOL for any at-risk urban kids who want it could result in revolutionary change, and vastly reduce the cost of social services and prison down the line. My best bet for breaking multi-generational urban poverty. Starting the younger the better, the further away the better, the more of the year the better.

  • GSG

    “Not that I’m advocating keeping the Section 8 housing up, but I don’t think it’s quite as simple as “Tear the housing down and the crime’ll stop”:”

    Stephanie – Why would you want to interject rational thought into this “debate”? Isn’t it easier to just endorse a simplistic definition of the problem (“all poor people = criminals”) and a simplistic solution (“therefore, move all poor people somewhere other than my neighborhood”)?

  • GSG

    And by the way, if you’re waiting on development or gentrification to solve this problem, you will be waiting a looong time. The real estate boom in DC has already crested. We may not be on as sharp a downslope as other areas but we are definitely on the downside of the curve right now and likely will be for some time to come. You can talk all you want about getting developers to raze buildings and build new ones for higher-income residents. But try finding a developer whose willing to take on that kind of project in this economic environment AND who can line up the financing to do it. That’s a tall order given the number of empty condos that are already on line and scheduled to come on line in the near future.
    The bottom line is that if gentrification didn’t solve the problem in the boom years, it will not solve the problem now that the boom is over.

  • Steve

    Neener – what the heck was liberal about the story of the thug who became a painter? That is actually a conservative story. Guy finally gets decent career advice and becomes an entrepreneur? There is no government program involved? Just someone who gave some good advice and someone who took it and made the most of themselves.

  • Victoriam

    On the problem of violence – I think we should require all young men aged 15-25 to wear swords at all times. Let them be encumbered with the real weight of violence, and if they really want to kill their brothers, to do it in person, up close and spare the bystanders.

    Break up the concentrations of Sec. 8 housing by requiring ALL rental buildings in the entire city with more than 10 units to make a percentage available to Sec. 8 or other assistance programs – Maybe 10%, with a maximum limit of perhaps 10 total units in larger buildings. Allow NO buildings to have more than 20% Sec. 8.

    Establish more affordable housing by having the DC. govt.offer 3-4% construction loans for individual homeowners to convert empty basements into legal rental units and rent them for 10 years as Sec. 8.

    Completely reform the Section 8 program so more landlords are willing to take the (very significant) risk of renting to them. Yes, a lot of Sec. 8 tenants are fine, but if only 20% are troublesome, that is too much risk for a landlord who can easily rent to a stable, employed tenant instead.

    My own experience, (20 years in CH, renting out 4 apts. and managing a 30 unit building with as many as 10 units Sec. 8 or TAP) is that about 70% are troublesome. This ranges from simple noise, crowding, general mayhem and leaving behind loads of crappy broken furniture and 27 garbage bags of dirty clothes when then move, to a year-long eviction process and $5000.00 in lost rent. That is simply way too high a risk for a landlord.

    The fact is that people wind up in assisted housing because they have not been able, for a huge variety of reasons, to function in the real world. When you get a lot of dysfunctional people together in one place, with no motivation to change, no real consequences for their actions and no effective leaders, you get gangs and thugs, violence and general criminality.

  • 14thandColumbia

    Regardless of the merits of the debate, that particular housing complex HAS TO GO, or else they need to evict everyone currently there. That place is the den for all crime in the vicinity.

  • Disaffected in DC

    So what about Wardman Court, formerly known as Clifton Terrace? Has that placed improved since they most everyone out and re-did it? When it was Clifton Terrace, it was one of the most low-income complexes in the nation.

  • neener

    Neener – what the heck was liberal about the story of the thug who became a painter? That is actually a conservative story.

    No, it’s a liberal story about one person who stopped fighting the white man and embraced success in his own community on his own terms. It’s a story of liberation from “white images of success.”

  • neener

    The free public boarding school for at-risk kids is called the SEED School:


    I know the parents of four boys who tried it and had some success, but in the end couldn’t keep it up.

  • Steve

    Neener – your catagorization of the story is just silly. Its a great story about a guy, who with some advice figure life out. Don’t attach some dopey politcal adjetive to it.

  • neener

    Steve, you HAVE to be kidding!


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