Thursday, May 29, 2014

1979 in DC Public Housing

In the DC Archives the other day, I came across two interesting items from 1979. On January 2, 1979, Marion Barry became the second mayor of Home-Rule-Era DC.

First, resident representatives of the DC public housing projects met with Mayor Barry on June 12, 1979. One of these resident representatives, Vivian Williams, told Mayor Barry:
Ms. V. Williams: We have a priority. I would very much like to see us keep our eye on Ellen Wilson. This property is right up on Capitol Hill and if we aren't careful folk will take it right from under us. (1)
Vivian Williams did see what the future held! In 1988, everyone was moved out of Ellen Wilson with the promise to renovate the buildings, but then the entire project was destroyed and rebuilt as a mixed-income development called the Townhomes on Capitol Hill. Vivian Williams was quite aware of what was going on on Capitol Hill, since she both lived in public housing and worked as a public housing organizer through Friendship House. Here is a sampling of the activities she and the rest of the small staff at Friendship House organized, from my previous post:
During one three-month period in 1982, Friendship House had distributed 6,175 flyers, pamphlets, and newsletters (about resident council meetings, jobs, school activities, bingo nights, etc; usually distributed door-to-door allowing them to know personally many Hill residents); connected 150 residents with resources; assisted 33 renters or owners; advocated for city-wide policy changes; organized public housing meetings and a disco to fund public housing resident councils; helped people get jobs; dispensed clothes; gave out emergency food assistance; enrolled 84 families in a food cooperative; organized parents to improve the public schools; provided a breathtaking array of youth activities; provided seniors with meals and services (including visiting them in the hospital); and more (GWU Special Collections, Friendship House Association records). They organized public housing residents into resident councils to advocate for repairs and security, formed food cooperatives and low-cost food buying clubs, and organized residents as consumers to work to improve the Safeway and call for lower utility bills.
Today, these resident councils still exist. It would be interesting to hear how they are doing.

Second, the resident representatives noted the 1979 schedule for the Mayor's Department of Housing/Property Management Administration Special Summer Youth Programs. Mayor Barry had set up a special summer youth program for public housing, which included a bike program, horticulture program, video tape program, reading program, soccer program, and drama program. These programs also provided jobs for those running the programs (Washington Youth Corps [WYC]). Here are a couple of the schedules:

1979 Bike Program

15 WYC Supervisors, 1 per 5 youth.

Monday: Arthur Capper, Montana Terrace

Tuesday: Sheridan/Barry Farms, Highland/Valley Green

Wednesday: East Capitol/Capitol View/ East Gate

Friday: Stanton/Frederick Douglas/Edgewood

1979 Horticulture Program

2 Supervisors (17-21 years), 10 WYCs - 1 per 5 youth.

Monday: James Creek

Tuesday: Greenleaf

Wednesday: Arthur Capper

Thursday: Woodland

Friday: East Capitol

Monday: Lincoln Heights

Tuesday: Potomac.

(1) DC Archives, NCHA Advisory Board, Advisory Board Meeting with Mayor Barry, June 12, 1979.
(2) DC Archives, NCHA Advisory Board, Advisory Board Meeting with Presidents of Resident Councils, July 16, 1979.

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