Fifteen years ago, we knew that we must abandon the model of concentrating poverty in public housing projects and move in the direction of creating economically integrated, market-rate quality, mixed-income communities. We knew that the concentrated poverty of traditional public housing projects was having an insidious and corrosive impact on the lives of the residents, the surrounding neighborhoods, and the entire Atlanta community.
What we had not fully comprehended was the negative impact these residential areas with concentrated poverty were having on the neighborhood public schools and the educational outcomes of the children who attended those schools.
As my dear friend Dr. Norman Johnson, a former professor at Georgia Tech, Carnegie Mellon and Florida A&M, and a former Atlanta public school board member, puts it, “If you concentrate poverty in the residential arrangement, you cannot help but concentrate poverty in the neighborhood school. And, if you concentrate poverty in the school, it doesn’t work.”
As administrators of housing programs, real estate developers or professionals in related fields, we know that concentrating poverty in public housing projects or other residential arrangements leads to terrible human failure. We must never forget that a huge percentage of the people living in public housing projects are children. Thus, the toxic impact of concentrated poverty has had a disproportionate impact on our children, setting the stage for generational devastation.
By adopting and implementing policies that result in the creation of economically integrated communities, we can embrace a strategy and a sociological design for the schools that has a proven track record. Deconcentrating poverty in housing and schools is a great idea and even better public policy.
To read more, please see the post by Renee Glover entitled “Children Face the Greatest Risk” on the Atlanta Housing Authority’s “Lessons Learned” blog.
Renee Glover is the president and CEO of NHC Member Partner the Atlanta Housing Authority.