On Dec. 25, staff writer Katelyn Ferral reported on the problems of Section 8 housing across the Triangle, as housing agencies close waiting lists to those seeking federal housing vouchers. The story profiled a Durham family, caught between the shelters and streets who recently moved into a new apartment through Housing for New Hope. Here is an early look at Bob Wilson's column running this Sunday in The Durham News. Please tell us what you think below (with your name) or in a letter to the editor to email@example.com
BY BOB WILSON
No one not in the shoes of the 26-year-old Durham mother of four whose struggle to keep family and soul together in these desperate times can fully understand her anxiety. In search of an increasingly rare Section 8 housing subsidy, she and her children could be on the streets by late spring.
Reporter Katelyn Ferral's Dec. 25 story in The Durham News on the demand for Section 8 housing in the Triangle focused on of one family, but the story of that family can be multiplied to the nth degree in contemporary America. It is a story famously foretold almost 50 years ago by the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
In 1965, Moynihan, then a Harvard scholar (and later a U.S. senator) published a seminal report on the coming destruction of the black family by good intentions gone bad. His policy conclusions now apply just as forcefully to whites and Hispanics.
Before you accuse me of a hate crime by using the Durham mother as an example of how government has such a sorry record of making things worse for the black underclass, consider the choices she and others have made.
As Ferral describes her, the mother has developmental disabilities – she is virtually illiterate and suffers from schizophrenia and depression. She gets around on public transit. She is probably unemployable.
Thus the mother and her children, ages 2 to 6, are by default wards of the state. She likely will remain so, the children – well, their prospects aren't much better.
So poor that they sit on the kitchen floor to eat, this family is almost certainly in the process of reproducing not just economic poverty but intellectual and spiritual poverty as well. Still, the mother and her kids will require public aid and the kindness of strangers for years to come. They cannot survive without nonstop help.
Try to see the world as they do. It is a self-perpetuating world of low expectations, one in which 72 percent of black babies are born out of wedlock (whites are 40 percent, Hispanics 38 percent).
The mother's children are growing up in a culture that once valued the primacy of the nuclear family. But after decades of dependency on failed programs such as AFDC – remember, the one that paid fathers to stay out of the house – the very concept of a traditional black family is in peril.
Was the mother destined to have four children by her mid-20s? No. She could have prevented pregnancy. The father or fathers of her children could have prevented pregnancy. Contraception isn't rocket science.
The irresponsibility of the parents must now be visited upon their children, who through no fault of their own have been thrust into a Hobbesian environment in which life really can be nasty, brutish and short. It is they who must learn that an unquenchable desire to rise above the median is the highway out of the poverty cycle.
Admittedly, that's asking a lot. Yet the best antipoverty program remains the oldest: education. Finish high school and marry before having children. It's that simple.
Don't fret: The Durham mother and her kids won't be on the street. They will get help. But then help is all that they and millions like them have ever known. And that may well be the greatest tragedy of all.