Re: low income housing
From: Karen Frayne (Karen.FrayneSONOMA.EDU)
Date: Fri, 12 May 95 11:27 CDT
        Reply to:   RE>>low income housing
Buzz Burrel wrote:
I think Joani's concern that low income people will not feel comfortable in
your typical cohousing situation is not true - her insights are very good,
and quite valid, but they apply to cultural DIVERSITY and not INCOME.  
In other words, there is no way in the world a poor hispanic family would
feel at home in any of the coho places I've seen.  But neither would a middle
income hispanic family.
Karen F (me) replies:  I think people who were *raised* in low income
situations have a lot to offer coho.  For 3 years I worked in a truly poor
neighborhood, and it was a community.  In the housing projects so many people
shared space that there was always yelling, laughter, and activity on the
lawns and in the street, with doors propped open.  Women hanging laundry
together.  This neighborhood has the only truly integrated gang in the state
of California, including Mexicans, Laotians, Cambodians, Vietnamese, blacks,
and whites.  Not that I'm saying the gang is good:  there is terrible
violence in San Diego.  But that neighborhood does have a strong feeling of
cohesiveness, and as one 13 year old student there said to me, "I went to a
rich neighborhood and everybody's door was closed."

I think Buzz makes a good point that there are different reasons for being
low income, from inherited poverty to "artists, athletes, living lightly
people, meditators, early retirees, world travellers, etc"  But I have a
concern about what Buzz says next: "These are great people to have in a
community, because they are interesting, have time, experience, and usually
have something to contribute"  This seems to imply that certain "types" are
better for community than others.  To me, this attitude could turn coho into
the wrong kind of club.  "We take people who are poor cause they've been
travelling the world, but if you're historically low income, you probably
won't fit in."  I agree that it will be hard to bridge cultural gaps, but I
think we *need* people who have really diverse childhood experiences, it's
not just something we wish for but is impractical.  My observation is that
the high-income culture (which includes many people who are currently poor)
hasn't been doing so well with community-building, since it has concentrated
so much on personal property and privacy.  Lower income neighborhoods have
higher community, as a general trend, if I can believe my own two eyes. 
Something about having to make sacrifices and knowing you have to depend on
others.  Not to say I want to turn away artists and world travelers and
retirees:  nothing of the sort.  But coho, as Buzz points out, already has
much homogeneity.  I know there are types of difference that can't seem to be
bridged.  (earlier I brought up the example of a fundamentalist christian
trying to share community with a homosexual couple next door).  People who
offend my ethics or have values contrary to my deepest values may be
impossible for me to live with.  But if income level or race/ethnicity is
enough cultural difference to make me unable to live with someone, then I
will have to change, because I *need* the skills and gifts that diverse
groups have to offer.  Thanks for your insights, Buzz, and for inspiring me
to write back!
Peace,
kf


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