The Poverty Tour – Part 3

Tonight’s discussion on poverty in America—”No Room at the Inn”—continues with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and a focus on the housing crisis.

TRANSCRIPT

Tavis: At the heart of so much that has gone wrong in our economy over the past few years is, of course, the crisis in housing. In tonight’s installment of our poverty tour we look at the plight of those caught up in the housing crisis for a piece called “No Room at the Inn.”

[Begin film clip]

Evelyn Dortch: (Unintelligible) they had my house. I’ve basically been in this house all my life. All these other corporations are getting bailed out, and the average working person is getting foreclosed on.

Jackie Starkey: I went to a shelter first and there was no room in the inn, per se. They referred me out here, and -

Tavis: The shelter referred you out here?

Jackie Starkey: The shelter referred me out here.

Tavis: Wow.

Jackie Starkey: You get so frustrated. It’s like, why couldn’t they help me when I was out there? Why did I have to be homeless to get help?

Chavon: A family with young children, babies, infants, old, senior citizens, whatever, evicted into the street so they could become homeless, just like we are.

Tavis: So they’re using homeless people to evict people who are about to become homeless.

Male One: I say housing is a human right.

Crowd: Housing is a human right.

Male One: That’s why we stand and fight.

Crowd: That’s why we stand and fight.

Male One: Again, housing is a human right.

Crowd: Housing is a human right.

Monica: So, so to start off with asserting that housing is a human right for me comes from the premise that living is a human right. That we all agree that we have the right to live, there’s no way to live without adequate housing. It’s just not possible.

Tavis: In the year 2010, an already decimated housing market suffered an additional 3.8 million foreclosures – a record rate. Across this land, the response to this crisis has been varied. We begin near a highway overpass in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Dr. Cornel West: I have a feeling (unintelligible).

Jackie Starkey: We are at Camp Take Notice outside of Ann Arbor, located in between I94 and highway M14.

Tavis: How many folk are living in this particular -

Male Two: Well there are right now around 48 people.

Tavis: About 48 people.

Male Two: Yeah.

Tavis: Living -

Male Two: We’ve been actually his location for one year. We don’t have permission to be here, explicit permission to be here. We’ve been evicted. This is our sixth location. We’ve been evicted from five, five previous locations.

West: Wow.

Male Two: This is (unintelligible) the Department of Transportation.

Jackie Starkey: I went to the shelter first and there was no room in the inn, per se.

Tavis: Yeah.

Jackie Starkey: They referred me out here, and -

Tavis: The shelter referred you out here?

Jackie Starkey: The shelter referred me out here.

Tavis: Wow.

Male Two: They’re having budget problems too.

Tavis: When you lived in your own home and you end up living in these conditions, it does what to your spirit, your soul? How do you -

Jackie Starkey: You really get – you feel frustrated. You get so frustrated. It’s like why couldn’t they help me when I was out there? Why did I have to be homeless to get help?

Male Two: Ann Arbor’s predominantly white, middle and upper class, so we don’t have, of course, the upper class here, but we do have a predominately white community. We do have some African Americans and some Hispanics as well as other ethnicities here.

The age group tends to be people in their forties, fifties and sixties. A lot of times it’ll be people that had at one time done a physical job for their livelihood and are no longer able to do that.

Jackie Starkey: I have found a part-time job. Actually, I had two part-time jobs but got laid off of one.

Tavis: With a part-time job now you live here still because you have to at this point because you want to?

Jackie Starkey: Because I have to.

Tavis: So a part-time job still doesn’t allow you to make a -

Jackie Starkey: No, it does not.

Tavis: – make a monthly apartment.

Jackie Starkey: Not at minimum wage, no.

Tavis: Yeah, yeah.

Jackie Starkey: It’s going to take me a long time to save up enough money.

Evelyn Dortch: Cross Lanes used to be a middle class, upper middle class neighborhood suburb of Charleston. We’ve been hit really hard by this recession that they say doesn’t exist.

All over Cross Lanes are for sale signs. We have people who are abandoning their homes, and we have people who are being foreclosed upon, like me. I am Evelyn Dortch; I’m with Direct Action Welfare Group, better known as DAWG, or the Organization that’s doing the on-the-ground organizing of poor people in West Virginia to create a movement to end poverty and the threat of poverty.

You’re here at my house. I’ve basically been in this house all my life. It was my aunt and uncle’s house. They retired, so they wanted to sell it to family, so they sold it to me. When I bought my house seven years ago it was appraised at $120,000. I currently owe $80,000 on my house. My house is now valued at around $40,000, so I owe twice as much on my house as what it’s worth.

The minimum bid for my house on the 24th is $6,000. If they would sell me my house for $6,000, I could keep it, but they won’t. I applied for the modified homeowner’s assistance that Obama put out and our federal government put out, and they said I don’t qualify because I make too much money.

I contacted my mortgage company, which at that time was Freddie Mac. My mortgage has been sold like it’s candy all over the place, so I don’t even know who owns it now. But I contacted Freddie Mac and tried to get a forbearance because I wasn’t paid for five months because my organization runs on grant funding and we were waiting on grants to come in, and you can get a forbearance that will say I’m not getting paid now but I will get paid on this date and I will pay you. They denied my forbearance.

This has been going on since January that we’ve been fighting for the house. All these other corporations are getting bailed out, and the average working person is getting foreclosed on.

Chavon: I had my own apartment, got evicted. A lot of people always get a lot of work from doing evictions, evicting families, it don’t matter what kind of families. Families with young children, babies, infants, old, senior citizens, whatever, evict them to the streets so they could become homeless, just like we are.

Tavis: So people who manage these buildings, who own these properties, call the marshals to evict people, and they come here to offer you all money to go pack up the stuff and evict other people.

Chavon: As soon as they say, “We got an eviction job,” everybody know pretty much what you’re going to go do. You’re going to evict a families out of their houses. Now, what you don’t know is when you get on the job how many houses you have. Depending on how many houses you have depends on how much money you’re going to get.

Tavis: How much you make per house?

Chavon: Per house is $10. Like, per apartment is like $7.

Tavis: So they’re using homeless people to evict people who are about to become homeless.

Chavon: Right. And that’s Monday through Friday.

Tavis: Monday through Friday. So every day there are people out here hiring people to evict people.

Chavon: Mm-hmm.

Tavis: That’s crazy.

Chavon: (Unintelligible)

Tavis: In Wisconsin, Take Back the Land Madison seizes and rebuilds abandoned homes to house families.

Male One: I say housing is a human right.

Crowd: Housing is a human right.

Male One: That’s why we stand and fight.

Crowd: That’s why we stand and fight.

Male One: Again, housing is a human right.

Crowd: Housing is a human right.

Male One: That’s why we stand and fight. This is the beginning of a movement that’s been started a few years ago here in Madison with Take Back the Land. We’re not coming from down on high, we’re coming from the streets where the things are happening.

Where the budget shortcuts are happening, here in Madison.

Male Three: So we are here on a daily basis, making (unintelligible) against a system that’s set up to make impoverished people. And along with the poverty that these programs are causing is also the criminalization of the poverty.

Male Four: Yes, yes, yes, preach, preach.

Tavis: Some people see your activity, your action as immoral. Not just immoral, but unethical and illegal, that you would just take over a home that happens to be empty. For those who think that your activity, your behavior is immoral, unethical, illegal, how do you respond to that?

Monica: So to start off with asserting that housing is a human right, from me comes from the premise that living is a human right. And if we all agree that we have the right to live, there’s no way to live without adequate housing. It’s just not possible, right?

So the reason, why are we talking about housing in the term of a material sense is because that’s simply how you have to talk about it in a capitalistic society. There’s no other way to talk about it unless I say I own this house.

Male Three: They say the greatness of a nation is dependent on how it treats its poor. Okay, well, this is not great to me. I was homeless for seven years, and it was a difficult thing to try to pull yourself up when you ain’t got no place to put your feet, like the dove that Noah let go. He flew around; he had no place to lay his feet. And if you ain’t got no time to sit down and say, “Well, okay, what am I going to do next,” you can’t pull yourself up. This is the start. From there, things could (unintelligible).

As you would be – what we’re talking about is moral. It’s morals. It should be a moral right to have a place.

[End film clip]

“Announcer:” Every community has a Martin Luther King Boulevard. It’s the cornerstone we all know. It’s not just a street or boulevard, but a place where Walmart stands together with your community to make every day better.

“Announcer:” Nationwide Insurance supports Tavis Smiley. With every question and every answer, Nationwide Insurance is proud to join Tavis in working to improve financial literacy and remove obstacles to economic empowerment one conversation at a time. Nationwide is on your side.

“Announcer:” Brought to you by the AARP Foundation.

“Announcer:” WK Kellogg Foundation – engaging communities to improve the lives of vulnerable children. Learn more at WKKF.org.

“Announcer:” The Annie E. Casey Foundation – helping to build better futures for America’s kids and families.

“Announcer:” And by contributions to your PBS station from viewers like you. Thank you.

  • Kathy Goodwind

    Instead of the all the pity parties why aren’t poverty people accepting some of their consequences as a result of not living within their means, having children they cannot afford and realizing they do not have to have everything that is advertised? Who really needs cable tv, who really needs to have a zillion cell phones. I am a liberal but it never ceases to amaze me the number of people not willling to realize that having children is a reasponsiblity not a right. There is no one to take care of them other than their parents. Not even the churches who encourage having kids, will help out when there are no funds to raise them. Get real! Realize it is a responsibility not a whim to having kids. I was a single mom and know. Don’t ask me to feel so sorry for someone who cannot afford to have a kid.

  • John Spezza

    Testify!!!

  • Naomi Robarge

    It’s never just about the kids. Minimum wage is screwed up, whether you have kids or not, certain areas just aren’t affordable. 67% of the population in my area barely make enough to cover the high rent. Wisconsin shelters are overflowing, and it has nothing to do with having kids one can’t afford, and more to do with the high cost of living, and lack of employment availability in the state. And for the record, not all of these mothers got pregnant “on a whim.” Some are raped and some take precautions, but end up pregnant anyway and don’t believe in abortion. Adoption is an option-but orphanages and adoption agencies can’t afford more children either. Nobody expects you to feel sorry for anyone.

  • eva lee

    anarchy does not mean out of control…it means…out of THEIR control. as long as the puppet masters manipulate our lives and minds, we are lost. “THEY” will never be interested in life down here at the working wage slave level because they don’t live here and they protect their friends and family from having to come down here. as a working poor person, i work two jobs seven days and cannot afford dental care, and i have nothing but sympathy for the 99% of the population who live as badly as i do and much much worse. we are slaves, darlings. education aside, pay rate aside, you will never be able to afford any kind of freedom, choice, pride in the current economic system unless you get the lucky sperm and are born into the 1%…make no mistake about it. i also want to offer solution…minimize. use as little as you can, live as cheap as you can, forget the american dream it was a hoax. use your mind and soul to cultivate a warm and loving disposition, and spend your earth hours in as much joy as possible. namaste.

Last modified: October 13, 2011 at 12:21 pm