Honoring the Residents of Washington Courts
In 1996, The Housing and Urban Development agency (HUD) assessed the deficiencies in the Washington Courts Housing Project and determined that it was not worth funding the necessary repairs. They recommended that it be demolished. But this was home, and to some, had been home for years. Many residents still think of Washington Courts as home and long to go home again. Yet Washington Courts was said to be "woefully segregated," the buildings were old, and there was a vision of moving residents to a racially and ethnically integrated and more economically diverse neighborhood – a step up. The displacement and relocation of residents began in 2003 with just 60 families left in the complex. Five years later, we honor their stories. A few of the residents have passed on – some have moved out of town or out of state – and others are spread throughout the city – in the other Municipal Housing Authority complexes, private market housing, or for a few, in Cornhill, the target community for revitalization in the HOPE VI initiative. (O'Farrell, P. April 25, 2000. The Observer-Dispatch, Utica, New York.)
Who are the residents?
At the start of the HOPE VI project in July of 2003, there were 60 households
in the Washington Courts apartments. Most were single; 51 of the heads of household were single, never married, 2 were separated, 1 divorced, and 1 widowed. Only 5 residents were married. Heads of household were primarily African-American (80%, n
=48), and 12 were Latino (20%). Nearly 40 percent of residents were over 55 (39.65%), and 10 percent were 25 years of age or younger. About half of the residents were in what we ordinarily would consider to be the prime working-age years of 26-55 (n
However, many of the residents of Washington Courts were disabled and unemployed. Thirty-six of the sixty residents (60%) talked of disabilities that included heart trouble, back and leg problems, kidney disease, seizures, asthma, depression, panic disorders, and other mental health issues. Of those who are disabled, 10 residents were over 65 years of age, but 26 of them were men and women of an age that they would be working, in the absence of any other barriers. Fully half of the residents received Supplemental Security Income (SSI) (n
=30); nine households received Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) funds; and twelve households received Social Security disbursements.
Children lived and played at Washington Courts; a total of 67 children were associated with the 60 households that were displaced. Six of those children were born after July 1, 2003, the start of the project. Seventeen children were under 5 years of age at that time, 22 were between 5 and 11, 14 were between 12 and 16 years of age, and 8 youth were over 16 years of age.
Only 19 residents were employed, with a wide range of situations. Thirteen of the nineteen residents were employed full-time, although the nature of the employment varied greatly. Salaries ranged from $3,000 to $20,000 per year; excluding the two lowest incomes as outliers that would skew the results gave a median income of $14,500 for those residents who were working. The median income for the city of Utica as a whole in the 2000 Census, by contrast, was $25,113.