|McALLEN, February 24 - After the McAllen City Commissioners’ workshop two weeks ago on the proposed project of the McAllen Housing Authority, a precious little girl, appearing to be around 10 years of age, stood with a sign in front of Commissioner Crane.
Her sign read, “I am a child from a low income family. I am a nice person.” My heart broke as I watched her encounter him and wondered what was going through her mind as she listened to the discussion.
I often define “sin” as having a bad memory, as so many of the residents I know in north McAllen, where I live, come from very humble backgrounds, many having grown up in the colonias themselves.
For my Commissioner Scott Crane to make a comment about his opposition to the McAllen Housing Authority project because it brings a density of low income people to his district and it would be better to build it in the southern districts of the City where it could raise property values is typical of what NIMBYism [not in my back yard] is all about.
The argument is not about the architectural design of the buildings, the artistic renderings are beautiful. The argument is really not about density. If they were being sold as condos to middle class families there would be no argument, including the impact on schools. The argument is about the families being working poor people, and as Mr. Crane wrote, “and the tenants bring with them the adversities that brought them there.” This mentality disregards the fact that the Housing Authority has strict control over the maintenance, upkeep, and eligibility for the participating families.
As a citizen of McAllen for over 33 years, I was embarrassed and saddened that Henry Flores felt the need to remove his proposal because he did not want families living in something he built not to be welcomed.
One thing I have learned from my work with low income families, they have a lot to teach us about hospitality and caring for their neighbor. They share from the little they have. We need to give them a chance to benefit from these Housing Authority rental units. They are working in our community as teachers’ aids, health care providers, etc., even in north McAllen.
Let’s give them the opportunity to live where they work. Let’s start doing as HUD recommends, diversifying the makeup of our neighborhoods. We can learn so much from each other. Most importantly, let’s show all our children from the way we speak and act, especially the little girl with the sign, that their dignity and the respect due them is not dependent on how much money their parents make.
Ann Cass works with low-income families in the housing arena. She is a resident of McAllen.