Thursday, July 30, 2009

Blame the TV Lady

Would you like to know why, in New Orleans, this poor woman is screwed?

Why no one is going to listen to the people advocating for the right of all poor people to have decent housing?

Why, no matter how plain the moral scandal -- no matter how many vulnerable people die squatting in fetid Crescent City heaps for lack of affordable housing -- no one will care, and they will feel morally justified in not caring?

Two words: Sharon Jasper.

THIS IS HER. Sharon Jasper, a.k.a., "the TV Lady."

The woman whose Section 8 housing is nicer than my house, but not good enough for her to refrain from decrying it as a "slum house" almost two years ago.

The woman who can't afford to pay full rent
but who can afford to have a 60-inch television.

The woman who spent her time protesting the demolition of rundown, crime-ridden public-housing slums so the city could replace them with mixed-income developments, designed to provide better housing while breaking up concentrations of poverty and violent crime.

The woman who, with a cadre of angry local and out-of-town "activists," spent her time protesting, yelling "Shut up, white boy!" during city council meetings and getting arrested for allegedly bopping a cop.

All this despite local housing officials' assurances there were more than enough subsidized-housing units for residents who would be displaced.

In a New Orleans Times-Picayune story this week, the head of a group that assists the homeless said hers is a race against death in some cases:

UNITY head Martha Kegel explained that the homeless people they met were placed on a waiting list and given priority according to how likely they were to die without housing. Quite a few already had died waiting for housing, she said.

"Is there a quick way to house people so that they're not dying on a list?" Farha asked. "What is the policy answer to address the immediate need?"
WELL, one policy answer might have been for local activist groups to not to jump on board the Sharon Jasper Express, which went full-steam for the right to live not in decent housing, but instead in a hellhole named Desire . . . or St. Bernard . . . or Lafitte. That is, before it jumped the tracks.

At top, Grace Bailey sits in her squat, as captured by Times-Picayune photographer John McCusker. In 2007, Sharon Jasper thought her nice Section 8 apartment with the 60-inch TV was a "slum house." I'll bet Bailey wouldn't mind trading up to Jasper's "slum" abode.

But she won't get to trade up to a house where she doesn't fall through the floor and where the mosquitoes don't swarm her as she sleeps. Justice -- and housing -- for the poor has been thoroughly discredited by many of those claiming to be their advocates.

Nowadays, the greedy and the callous in New Orleans can blow off "the least of these," and their cause, with three little words.

"The TV Lady."

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