Poorest Of Poor Forced To Volunteer

Public housing residents are being forced to do community service -– but what makes them different from other recipients of federal subsidies?
November 24, 2003, 2pm PST | David Gest
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"Public housing as we know it today" was established by a 1998 Congressional act, but many don't know that the act also included "a provision requiring unemployed public-housing tenants to 'volunteer' eight hours of community service a month." Although not enforced for much of its existence, the provision must now be enforced by housing authorities nationwide, according to HUD. "Critics say it unfairly focuses on public-housing residents, instead of the myriad subsidies handed out to nearly everyone else." Should all recipients of government subsidies be forced to do community service? "It is somewhat condescending in that very few people are affected by this legislation," says one congressional aide. "It is supposedly for people who don't provide a service back to the community -- as if they are different from everyone else." Supporters liken the requirement to self-help welfare-to-work programs, encouraging self-sufficiency. Others claim that "it is an attempt to ensure people living in public housing are the most deserving but the least likely to rock the boat."

Thanks to David Gest

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Published on Friday, November 21, 2003 in Orlando Weekly
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