Closing LV public housing debated

Stella Wingard lives in a tiny one-bedroom in what she calls “the projects,” a bare-bones group of 84 public housing units collectively known as Ernie Cragin Annex #2.

The 50-year-old is grateful to have a place to stay — she was homeless for a time years ago — but she’s not entirely happy to be living in the meager, low-ceilinged beige structure off U.S. Highway 95 and Eastern Avenue.

“I don’t have any peace,” Wingard said on Wednesday while resting on her sofa with her small dog, Dollar Bill, named for “the things I don’t have too often.”

“I hear gunshots,” she continued. “The police are here every night. It can be depressing. I don’t feel safe. There’s always fightin’, talkin’, gossipin’ and hatin’, living this close together, and everybody’s struggling.”

So Wingard was excited when she learned that the Ernie Cragin buildings are among the first targeted for demolition in a controversial Las Vegas Housing Authority plan to eventually do away with much of its public housing.

The agency plans instead to give many of its low-income residents Section 8 rent-subsidy vouchers, which allow recipients to live wherever landlords are willing to accept the vouchers.

Other cities around the nation began experimenting with replacing public housing with Section 8 vouchers years ago as a way to help people escape the concentrated poverty of “the projects.” But the results have been decidedly mixed, and such demolitions have been criticized for destroying public housing communities, spreading crime and failing to lift people out of poverty.

Over the next several years, the Las Vegas and North Las Vegas housing authorities plan to get rid of hundreds of public housing units, essentially forcing the relocation of thousands of poor people.

For Wingard, a substitute teacher who says she’s been unable to find a full-time job, the demolition that could come as soon as next year will give her the chance to start over in a nicer, safer neighborhood.

“It’s a blessing,” said Wingard, who is one of the few single women among her neighbors who doesn’t have children living with her. “I’m already packing.”

Critics who favor doing away with standard public housing say clustering low-income people together doesn’t work and traps families in a cycle of poverty.

“Public housing communities are not healthy places to raise families,” said Carl Rowe, executive director of the Las Vegas Housing Authority. “There’s a lot of dysfunction. A lot of it is as a result of the concentration of low-income people.”

Section 8 rent-subsidy vouchers, on the other hand, give people the opportunity to blend in with the larger community.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has repeatedly slashed public housing budgets in recent years, effectively forcing housing agencies to come up with alternatives, Rowe said. HUD would have to approve any demolition of public housing before it can go forward.

“If it works for the community, we would approve it,” said Larry Bush, a HUD spokesman.

Bush said it’s often less cost-effective to continue repairing older public housing than to demolish it in favor of Section 8 vouchers. The vouchers also allow people to move closer to job opportunities, day care facilities or schools, Bush said.

In Las Vegas, the list of landlords willing to accept Section 8 vouchers has been growing steadily because of tough economic times. Those lucky enough to score the vouchers — the waiting list is lengthy — may settle anywhere in the valley vouchers are accepted, so long as rental rates there are considered reasonable according to fair market rent standards set by HUD.

Fair market rent for a three-bedroom home or apartment, for example, is $1,382. A low-income family would typically pay about 30 percent of its income toward that rent, and a Section 8 voucher would be issued for the remainder.

The valley’s three housing authorities — Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Clark County — already collectively administer nearly 9,000 Section 8 rent-subsidy vouchers. They also manage 3,170 public housing units and have a budget of about $109 million.

The units slated for demolition do not include housing for seniors.

Las Vegas and North Las Vegas have tentative plans to eventually build mixed-income housing at the former public housing sites, and some past public housing residents may one day end up living in the mixed-income units. But in the meantime they’ll make do with vouchers.

Public housing residents who are displaced by demolition have been promised they’ll have no problem getting vouchers, and will go to the top of the waiting list. The housing authorities expect HUD to offer “replacement” Section 8 vouchers for the loss of public housing.

The replacement of public housing, which often is clustered together in neighborhoods, with vouchers has stirred controversy in other cities.

In Memphis, Tenn., the demolition of public housing projects beginning in 1997 has recently been linked to the spread of crime throughout the wider community there, essentially reinforcing the stereotype about poor people destroying the suburbs.

People already unfairly blame Section 8 recipients for bringing crime and other problems along with them to their new communities, Rowe said.

“We find lots and lots of times when people call and say, ‘There’s a Section 8 family causing problems,’ we look and, no, they’re not a Section 8 family,” he said.

Rowe has heard the criticism and read the research about the potential downsides of getting rid of public housing. Worrying about whether it’s truly the right thing to do has kept him up at night.

“There are those out there who advocate keeping them (public housing residents) in one place,” Rowe said. “But isn’t that essentially saying these folks are no better than animals, and you should keep them with the rest of the animals? There’s nothing human about that kind of view.”

Instead, Rowe said, his housing authority will focus on adequately preparing residents for the switch to rent-subsidy vouchers in an effort to avoid the kinds of problems other cities have encountered.

“We recognized early on that housing is nothing but a necessary vehicle,” he said. “You can put folks in a mansion and it’s not going to help them cope any better in the larger society. Our efforts have to be aimed at increasing self-sufficiency programs, and we’ve begun that.”

The agency hosts classes that focus on skills such as budgeting and job searching. But funding for such classes is limited, Rowe said.

Some who live in public housing say they understand the concern people may have about more “Section 8 people” moving to their neighborhoods.

Natalyn Coleman, the 51-year-old single mother of two young children, said she doesn’t much care for some of her public housing neighbors, either, and will be happy to get away. But there’s already crime everywhere, she said, and it’s unfair to assume it will be spread by people from “the projects.”

“There’s shootings all over the valley,” she said. “Schools are locked down all over.”

Coleman, a Clark County School District employee who works as a “floater” — someone who goes from school to school as needed to help teachers supervise students who have behavioral problems — says she’s seen as many school lockdowns in upscale neighborhoods as in those near public housing communities.

That’s one example of how crime is already widespread, she said. Moving people out of public housing won’t make that any worse.

“People think, ‘Oh, no, here they come, tearing up the neighborhood,'” Coleman said. “‘Here comes the crime.’ It isn’t so. There’s crime everywhere already.”

When asked whether she thinks handing out rent-subsidy vouchers to former public housing residents will spread crime to other areas of the city, Wingard joked: “The police won’t have to keep coming to the same street. They can see some other streets.”

After a moment, she added, “There’s the stigma that people from the projects are thieves or killers. Not all of us are bad people. We all have something to offer.”

Wingard, who has lived in public housing about seven years, plans to be a good neighbor in whatever new community she lands.

“You could teach me something, and I could teach you how to cook sweet potato pie,” she said.

“If everybody could love your neighbor, if we get a chance, some of us will make you proud.”

Contact reporter Lynnette Curtis at lcurtis@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0285.

ad-high_impact_4
News
VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System hosts Veterans Day Car Show and BBQ
The 4th Annual Veterans Day Car Show and BBQ is held in celebration of Veterans Day at the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System Medical Center in North Las Vegas, Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Wildfires in Southern California
Wildfires hit Ventura County, Calif., on Nov. 9, 2018. (Richard Brian/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dedication of Nevada's Battle Born memorial
The state of Nevada on Friday dedicated its Battle Born memorial honoring 895 state residents who have died in America’s wars.
Las Vegas police and Sunrise Children's Hospital hope to prevent infant deaths
The Metropolitan Police Department and Sunrise Children's Hospital held a press conference to get the message out on preventable infant deaths attributed to "co-sleeping" and other unsafe sleeping habits. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
No serious injuries after car hits tree in south Las Vegas
One person reported minor injuries but wasn’t hospitalized after a Wednesday morning crash in the south valley.
Nellis Air Force Base keeps airmen fed
Nellis Air Force Bass airmen have delicious and healthy food items, and a variety of dining facilities to choose from. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Suspicious package found at central Las Vegas post office
Las Vegas police determined that a suspicious package found Monday morning at a central valley post office was not a threat.
Suspicious package found at central Las Vegas post office
Police evacuated the area around the Garside Station post office early Monday morning near Oakey and Decatur boulevards.
With husband's passing, family in limbo for workers' comp claim
Meredith Tracy's husand, Russell Tracy, died more than a year ago on his first day working for a new company when he fell 22 feet into a manhole that was not properly safeguarded. His employer was fined $82,000 in penalties for unsafe practices, but the company has denied her workers' compensation claim, leaving her with no compensation since the death. Rachel Aston Las Vegas Review-Journal @rookie__rae
With husband's passing, family in limbo for workers' comp claim
Meredith Tracy's husand, Russell Tracy, died more than a year ago on his first day working for a new company when he fell 22 feet into a manhole that was not properly safeguarded. His employer was fined $82,000 in penalties for unsafe practices, but the company has denied her workers' compensation claim, leaving her with no compensation since the death. Rachel Aston Las Vegas Review-Journal @rookie__rae
Las Vegas family shares flu warning
Carlo and Brenda Occhipinti lost their son, Carlo Jr., or “Junior,” to the flu last year.
Author Randall Cannon shares an anecdote about Stadust Raceway
Author Randall Cannon shares an anecdote about Dan Blocker, who played Hoss Cartwright on the TV show "Bonanza," and the actor's passion for auto racing at Stardust International Raceway in Las Vegas during the 1960s. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal.)
Project Neon 85 percent complete
On Wednesday morning Oct. 31, Interstate 15 northbound lane restrictions were removed opening up Exit 41 to Charleston Blvd. On Thursday Nov. 1, Interstate 15 southbound lane restrictions were removed. The new southbound off-ramp to Sahara Ave. and Highland Dr. also opened Thursday, November 1. With Project Neon 85% finished the flow of traffic on Interstate 15 has substantially diminished. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Girl killed after jumping from bridge onto 215 Beltway in Henderson
Eastbound lanes of the 215 Beltway are shut down by the Nevada Highway Patrol after a female juvenile jumped from the 215 overpass at Stephanie and was struck by a FedEx tractor trailer. Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal @Vegas88s
Kristallnacht story
An interview with 94-year-old Holocaust survivor Alexander Kuechel who survived seven concentration camps and didn’t leave Germany until after World War II was over. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1 dead in central Las Vegas crash
An early Wednesday morning crash left at least one person dead and another injured. The crash was reported just around 3 a.m. at the intersection of Flamingo Road and Swenson Street. At least two vehicles were involved in the crash, one of which caught fire. Debris was scattered across the intersection as police combed the area as they investigated the scene. Flamingo is blocked in both directions between Swenson and Cambridge Street. Northbound Swenson is blocked at the intersection.
Richard Knoeppel named the 2018 Nevada Teacher of the Year
Richard Knoeppel, an architecture design instructor at the Advanced technologies Academy, named the 2018 Nevada Teacher of the Year on Monday, Oct. 29, 2018. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Mojave Poppy Bees
(Zach Portman/University of Minnesota Department of Entomology) Male Mojave poppy bees exhibit territorial fighting behavior. The Center for Biological Diversity wants the bee, found only in Clark County, to be added to the endangered species list.
Clark County Schools announce random searches
Clark County School District middle and high school students will be subject to random searches for weapons under a new initiative to combat the wave of guns found on campus. (Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss React to Dennis Hof's Death
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss speak about their friend and prominent brothel owner Dennis Hof's death at Dennis Hof's Love Ranch. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada brothel owner Dennis Hof has died
Nevada brothel owner and Republican candidate for Nevada State Assembly District 36, Dennis Hof has died. He was 72. Nye County Sherriff's office confirmed. Hof owned Love Ranch brothel, located in Crystal, Nevada.
Las Vegas police investigate suspicious package at shopping center
Las Vegas police evacuated a southeast valley shopping center at Flamingo and Sandhill roads early Tuesday morning while they investigated reports of a suspicious package. (Max Michor/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Las Vegas Metro hosts the K-9 Trials
The Las Vegas Metro K-9 Trials returns to the Orleans Arena to benefit the Friends For Las Vegas Police K-9 group.
Kingman residents love their little town
Residents of Kingman, Ariz. talk about how they ended up living in the Route 66 town, and what they love about their quiet community. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Service at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery
Twelve unclaimed veterans are honored at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City in Oct. 9, 2018. (Briana Erickson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas house prices reach highest level in 11 years
Las Vegas house prices are rising But so is the amount of available homes on the market Still, properties priced below $300,000 are selling fast And September was the first time since June 2007 that the median house price reached the $300,000 mark Las Vegas home prices have been rising at one of the fastest rates in the country over the past year Recent data show the market is now less affordable than the national average
National Night Out
About 100 Summerlin residents gathered at Park Centre Dr. in Summerlin on Tuesday for National Night Out. Lt. Joshua Bitsko with Las Vegas Metro, played with 3-year-old David who was dressed as a police officer. Face painting, fire truck tours and more kept kids busy as parents roamed behind them. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rural homeless issue comes to a head in Pahrump
On Sept. 12, Pahrump sheriff deputies told residents of a homeless encampment on private property that they had 15 minutes to vacate and grab their belongings. That decision might face some legal consequences. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remembrance blood drive on October 1
A blood drive was held at the Las Vegas Convention Center on the one year anniversary of the Oct. 1 shooting. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remembrance Lights memorial unveiled at St. Rose hospital
A dedication ceremony was held at St. Rose to unveil a memorial and to read the names of those who died on October 1, a year ago. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like