«Mixed Messages on Mixed incoMes Volume 15, Number 2 • 2013 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development | Office of Policy Development and ...»
2006. Nearly one-half of the respondents (48 percent) were married or partnered, 27 percent were single, 15 percent were divorced or separated, and 10 percent were widowed. Slightly less than one-half (48 percent) of the households included minor children, with an average of 1.84 children per family. Most children (85 percent) were of school age, between the ages of 6 and 17.
With regard to education, 27 percent of respondents (mostly from Cambodia) had completed eighth grade or less, 10 percent had completed some high school, 12 percent had earned a highschool diploma, 6 percent had earned a general equivalency diploma, 15 percent had completed some college, 23 percent had attended technical or vocational school, and 8 percent had earned a college degree. The median combined household income was $903 per month although, as with education, responses ranged widely; nearly one-third of respondents made less than $650 per month, whereas the top 10 percent reported monthly incomes of between $2,500 and $4,000.
Sources of income included food stamps (62 percent); Supplemental Security Income, state disability insurance, or Social Security (57 percent); employment (41 percent); and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (10 percent).
Results Before HOPE VI, residents had developed a strong sense of community with high levels of trust and participation in community activities. Residents valued the multiethnic makeup of
the community. It is not surprising that they felt a loss of community through redevelopment.
Ethnic enclaves were disrupted and many, particularly elderly people and minorities, felt isolated.
Although they connected with neighbors in Salishan before development, followup interviews suggested reluctance to connect with neighbors after redevelopment, for both those in New Salishan and those living off site; 62 percent of respondents indicated that they associated less with their new neighbors than previously.
Trust Trust is an important aspect of community and of mixed-income, ethnically diverse neighborhoods. Respondents were asked if they trusted their neighbors and if people in their community generally got along with each other in Old Salishan. Roughly two-thirds of respondents in this multiethnic community indicated that they trusted most people in their neighborhood and more than 80 percent reported that neighbors generally got along with each other, although the responses varied by ethnic group and by age (exhibit 2).
The Russian-speaking residents exhibited the least trust for their neighbors although, as a group, they also had lived in the community for the shortest amount of time. The Cambodian residents, as a group, had been in the community the longest and showed one of the highest levels of feelings of trust. The oldest residents, many of whom had lived in the community for the longest time, demonstrated the highest level of trust in their neighbors, suggesting, at least in this ethnically diverse community, a relationship between length of tenure and level of trust.
Many of the open-ended responses suggest a relationship between knowing one’s neighbors and feeling trust. As a 60-year-old White woman stated— I’ve never had anybody that I didn’t really trust. We lived next to some... of the worst gang members in town, but because they grew up with my kids they made it all through high school, most of them, fine.
From another respondent, a 38-year-old African-American mother of two— Everybody in the neighborhood knew everybody and everybody... would watch out for each other’s kids.... If I needed something and didn’t have it, I could always go and knock on the neighbor’s door and ask them.
Although most respondents stated that they trusted the neighbors, a few did not share this perception, as the following comments indicate. “I don’t really trust anyone.” “In the old community, I couldn’t trust people.” Respondents who indicated a lack of trust in Old Salishan said they did not have friends or family there, or they had personally been a victim of or witnessed criminal acts.
“My car was broken into. There was crime and violence on the street.” Sense of Community A clear sense of community pervaded Old Salishan, some of which had arisen out of collective efforts to address crime and other community issues. “By the late 1990s Salishan’s crime rate had fallen to what other city neighborhoods were experiencing. By the time THA starting demolishing it in 2001, Salishan was a successful and safe neighborhood that was well organized, tightly knit, and occupied by people who were very fond of it” (THA, 2009a: par. 7). Residents relied on neighbors for needs, including food, childcare, and transportation. The community had developed a telephone tree. People looked out after each other’s children. As a 28-year-old Cambodian woman stated— On every block, there were always seven or eight families that you knew. And you’re always friends with someone next door. And your parents knew everyone on that block. So when you’re walking down the street, everyone’s like, ‘That’s so and so’s daughter.’... And you felt safe because they would look out for you.
Although this respondent did not romanticize this community (in fact, she went to on to talk about the crime in her neighborhood), the security of knowing her neighbors of varying ethnic backgrounds and knowing they would watch out for her enabled her to thrive under otherwise challenging circumstances.
More than 85 percent of respondents indicated that they socialized with neighbors in Old Salishan.
Respondents listed involvement in various activities, including holiday events and festivals, community gardening, resident council meetings, meetings regarding HOPE VI, and ethnically based activities and meals for seniors. Proximity to an ethnically based agency was one of the positive aspects of Old Salishan for the Vietnamese and Cambodians. One elder spoke of visiting this agency for the “community senior lunch. Four times a week we had lunch together.... It felt like my own home.” In commenting on community activities in Old Salishan, an elderly White woman stated— We would have a night out. When we lived on 40th, everyone would get together, we would have a potluck, everyone would bring a dish, and we would get together and know our neighbors.
Some community ties were very strong and provided instrumental help for residents. As an 80-year-old White woman stated— I’ve got some very close people in Salishan, too. When I was getting ready to move into the (new) house here in January, someone stole my check and my friend gave me money so I could move in.
We’re very close, have been ever since. That’s more than a special friend. There’s no adjective for it.
Cityscape 37Keller, Laakso, Stevens, and Tashiro
Another resident, a White woman raising her granddaughter, stated, “It was a great place. We had no problems and got along with all the neighbors. (My granddaughter) grew up there from when she was 1 year old. That is the only home she knows.” Other residents spoke of the comfort of living in the community for a long time, including the relationships with THA staff, as indicated by this statement from a 63-year-old White woman— Well, you really kind of got to be friends with everybody up there (in the THA office), you know.
And... a few years after I moved in, my older daughter... was killed. And... her body had been dumped right up here, and so everybody here knew who we were. And that because of (my son with a disability)... they were really good about, ‘You don’t worry about taking care of the rent;
when you get it in here, that’s fine.’ In addition, in the community, people came together to accomplish tasks. As a 63-year-old White woman stated— It was really a sense of community. Well, you really got to know your neighbors. The kids all got out and played together. If somebody was driving too fast through there, everybody was up in arms. You’d try to get the license plate. You know, people just kind of worked together.
A 60-year-old White woman stated— I like the idea of a community.... Everybody I know that lives elsewhere, they don’t really have that thing where you’re coming together. Like, we have private security here. You know? And that’s really nice and it’s because people got together and said, ‘Hey, this isn’t safe. We need something.’ These responses illustrate human agency, the residents of the community coming together to tackle a specific problem or issue. As an older female focus-group participant stated, “you ladies were right, when something needed to be done in the community, you ladies were wonderful, you knocked on doors.” One stakeholder, a Cambodian woman who was a former resident and later worked in the community, listed some of the benefits of the community and the shared activities— Residents strongly bonded together.... Housing also threw the Thanksgiving party for residents every year.... The school offered both Cambodian-language class and Cambodian classical folk dance.... They also celebrated a night-time fest once a month that brought lots of residents and kids.... (The) phone tree,... we had three languages in Khmer, Vietnamese, and English.... If any incident happened, we contacted one another immediately.
A city councilman made a similar statement— People who lived within Salishan were fairly tight knit in terms of banding together. Very active with regards to crime prevention and that kind of stuff, so I would just say the strength of community was... a sense of community.... There has always been a relatively diverse community.
... Within each of those (ethnic) communities, I think there is obviously a clustering of folks who rely on one another, but I’ve also seen over the years people of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds band together as the Salishan community. And so you’d see Asian and Native American and African American and whatever banding together on certain projects.
Valuing Diversity This ethnic and religious diversity is one of the strengths frequently identified by Salishan residents, stakeholders, and many in the larger urban community. They take genuine pride in the ability of so many different groups of people to support each other, to live together, to be a community.
Although they are quite diverse in some ways, a tie held that community together—the common experience of being in public housing, of being marginalized, of surviving trauma, of being vulnerable. One community stakeholder, a member of the clergy, noting that trauma was a part of the lives of many residents, stated that— The strength of the community came together during suffering, death, and tragedy. Dealing with that and helping each other, I see as a strength. It was an authentic community.... They knew how to celebrate together with a diverse population. There was no dominant minority to claim, like those in the big cities claim.
Another stakeholder, a school social worker, stated— (Salishan was) a place where cultures could live together and as a whole be nourished.... When I first came, it was heavily African Americans. That waned as the Vietnamese,... Cambodians, and Laotians (arrived). It became a place of wonderful ethnic diversity. And now... Hispanic,...
Eastern European.... And I think this is very rich.
A community stakeholder who worked with children and youth commented— There was a strong community fabric.... It was very culturally diverse.... There was different cultural and ethnic groups that were tighter knit than others. But there was still kind of woven together, ‘Everyone’s in this.’... You can definitely notice when they would blend when we’d all be playing and doing stuff together.
Residents talked about the “good people,” stating that despite different cultures or language barriers, they found ways to communicate. They also expressed positive feelings about the neighborhood diversity— I love some of the people.... There’s a couple of moms down at the school that I can’t really communicate with and some of them are learning English and I’m so thrilled we can talk. We’ve talked through translators and we’ve got, like, so happy to see each other and they’re just so sweet. You just kinda learn about their culture by being around them,... it’s like, I wish I can be more involved with all that.
An older White woman caring for her granddaughter stated— They would all kinda look out for each other. I didn’t speak their language, but they respected me and I respected them. I wouldn’t have to worry that someone would break in. My granddaughter at the time was only 2-and-a-half or 3. She’d go out on the block, and the people would watch her. I felt very safe she could go a couple of houses down. I’m very protective of my granddaughter. The Asian ladies would give her doughnuts and stuff. They looked out for her. She’s 10 years old (now), and I don’t let her go across the street to the playground. I’ve tried, but there’s too much going on. I don’t feel comfortable. I don’t know these people.
Her response illustrates the diminished sense of community she felt after redevelopment.
Cityscape 39Keller, Laakso, Stevens, and Tashiro
Loss of Community After Hope VI Development Many respondents talked about the loss of feelings of community. A 63-year-old White female resident stated, “I think there isn’t a sense of community there was. There isn’t the contact with the people that work up here (THA staff) that there was.” She went on to say— I don’t really visit with my neighbors or anything much. (In Old Salishan) I had kids that were out and about and made friends. There was a bunch of kids my kids’ age and they played together. It seems like the kids that are here that are my children’s age, it’s like their families are just, I don’t know, kind of wild.
Residents also expressed concerns about the loss of the community center and youth programs. An elderly White female long-term resident stated— We talked till we were blue. Kids need activities. A lot of these activities are leaving.... What we tried to communicate, that once these programs leave, not everybody has parks, not everybody can get there. How do people get to the centers? Now these things are just broken up everywhere.