Our Lady of the Projects

Octavia Anderson and the last days of the James E. Scott Homes

Earnestine Worthy and a group of about fifteen move to a grassy strip near the community center's parking lot. Worthy begins praying in a loud voice: "Lord, please help your people!" Others chime in: "Why should the money come here because of the bad conditions we've lived in for years to give white people nice housing?" "I'm tired of playing this game!" Worthy begins a little high-step march, like a drum majorette. "It's time to start stepping, people! Start stepping!"

Attracted by the ruckus, Leila Cribbs and Shqingqla Culliver join the group. Both support HOPE VI: "The only thing you are going to do is upset the federal government!" Culliver yells. "They are going to take HOPE VI away, and pull the money out of here. The only thing you are gonna get the people is homeless! These projects are coming down. Nobody can stop these projects from coming down!"


Octavia and five of her six children on the front porch of their Scott Homes apartment. Standing from left, Octavia and daughter Shawntai Marius, eighteen. Sitting from left, Alexander Hardemon, twelve; Phillecia Hardemon, ten; Ashley Hardemon, nine; and Phillip Hardemon, fifteen
Steve Satterwhite
Octavia and five of her six children on the front porch of their Scott Homes apartment. Standing from left, Octavia and daughter Shawntai Marius, eighteen. Sitting from left, Alexander Hardemon, twelve; Phillecia Hardemon, ten; Ashley Hardemon, nine; and Phillip Hardemon, fifteen

Opponents of the program have formed an umbrella organization -- the Coalition to Fix HOPE VI -- to focus their efforts. It has a four-page list of demands of changes that must be made in the program, including making space for all present Scott and Carver residents; automatically admitting anyone who qualifies for public housing; and insuring 25 percent of all jobs and contracts associated with the program go to the residents.

The coalition has had some success. On May 8 the county commission passed a resolution sponsored by Dorrin Rolle to build a 150-unit complex in the neighborhood for current Scott and Carver residents. They would be permanently designated as Section 8 units, so families wouldn't have to worry about annual renewal. A survey also is being conducted to find out what kind of housing the people really want.

But Octavia isn't celebrating.

On May 29 she filed a federal lawsuit against Rene Rodriguez and the Miami-Dade Housing Agency, in which she points out that her presidency can only be taken away by a recall election, not by a trumped-up "official" vote. She charges that her removal was a retaliation for her opposition to HOPE VI. "Whichever way it falls," she says, "it won't be because I didn't try."

Octavia may win back her presidency, but her plan to change HOPE VI is probably a pipe dream. On background, a HUD representative told New Times that the Scott and Carver plan cannot be amended to add more units onsite without threatening the whole $35-million grant. Because of that, Green may have a point. Making sure that each resident who leaves gets full access to services, and keeping track of what happens to those who do move out, may be the best use of the resident association's energy.

Meanwhile at nearby Liberty Square public housing, opposition is heating up over a second HOPE VI application recently submitted to HUD. About 25 demonstrators from Miami's Workers' Center and Low-Income Families Fighting Together stormed executive director Rene Rodriguez's office June 8 to demand changes. A cop stopped them from entering the building, so they stayed outside chanting: "We want Rene!"

If Rodriguez's reaction is any indication, the housing agency isn't about to cave. "These people are social pimps," Rodriguez complained the day of the protest. "They are trying to stop us from breaking the cycle of poverty."

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