Stop Bullying! Organize for Non-violent Resistance

Submitted by Jerry Halberstadt on Tue, 10/23/2012 - 17:01


Mary lives in a city close to the Pacific Ocean. She has been forced by abuse and bullying to move several times in a vain attempt to find a peaceful home in subsidized housing. Despite her pain and frustration, she bravely continues to seek solutions.

She has worked with her tenants' associations, but the bullies and management have resisted reasonable efforts to create a community free from fear and abuse. She is intelligent and resourceful, but unfortunately the systemic problems are overwhelming. Her efforts to seek help fell on deaf ears at unresponsive agencies. Her hard-won ideas, born of experience and wisdom, are worth considering.—Jerry

The following is a guest post by Mary


I am a peacable, nonviolent, capable, creative, responsible person. I am a mother, a grandmother, have worked as a homemaker/mother, as well as working in healthcare. I made the effort to get a college education.

I don't consider myself to be a troublemaker, but when subsidized housing puts my safety, well-being, peace of mind, and civil rights in jeopardy, I don't see too many other options than to peacably assert my rights, and to defend myself.

Your description of the in-group/gang of vicious bullying residents given preferential treatment by the management, so that this gang of bullies keeps the other residents intimidated and submissive, was very accurate. This was very insightful, helped me further understand what I have been dealing with, at all four locations.

All four HUD-funded apartment buildings I have lived in, in the past ~12 years, have had a vicious gang of residents who kiss up to, run and tattle to management about any attempts of any residents to assert their civil rights.

I now experience this housing as a huge rip-off of my freedom, safety, well-being, peace-of-mind, and civil rights, even a huge risk to my very life. I have developed Type 2 Diabetes, as a result of the inescapable stress of living in subsidized housing, in my opinion, and in the opinion of David Spero in Diabetes: Sugar-Coated Crisis, as well as other stress-related conditions.

I often experience subsidized housing as cruel, degrading, and seriously injurious. At the previous place I lived before being forced to move to my current "home," to escape the violence, the resident manager apparently retaliated against me for reporting having been sexually assaulted by a male resident from a half-way house; the manager refused to do a repair of a loud noise outside my bedroom window that sounded like a bus motor idling, day and night, for an entire year. It ruined my normal sleep patterns, and three years later, I am having to go to a sleep specialist to get back to normal.

I now see subsidized housing as practically useless, and I am looking for other more life-giving options, though I am holding onto my Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher until I convince myself I can safely make a transition to long-term, alternative housing.

I have been hanging onto this voucher, because it has helped keep me from homelessness, and because it is supposed to guarantee a safe living environment, and a decent standard of living. A Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher often can take many years to get. So I feel a big conflict about letting this voucher go.

I feel betrayed to repeatedly find how unsafe subsidized housing has been for me, mainly due to the unchecked bullying, harrassment, intimidation, and blatant or subtle threats of eviction, putting me at risk of homelessness.

Due to no fault of my own, I was homeless before, more than once, with and without children, and homelessness is even more traumatic than living in subsidized housing.

When I moved to subsidized housing I expected it to be safe housing just like the lease I signed each time said it would be, including peacable enjoyment of all public spaces.

Instead I found unchecked violence targeted towards residents by other residents and by managers, landlords, and property managers.

What can we do to stop bullying?

I strongly value progressive ideas, as well as a democracy that aims to include all people.

I experience the socio-political-economic-psychological dynamics here in this building and others being like what you describe, with the managers, landlords, and property management companies acting like feudal lords who own castles, land, and serfs.

It seems like the federal government is misdirecting huge amounts of money & resources by permitting undemocratic governance of subsidized housing residents.

I advocate non-violent resistance, as well as trying to act with non-violent resistance, personally, in relation to housing & other oppression.

While struggling with strong feelings of anger about oppression, I found an inspiring article "Three Ways of Meeting Oppression," by Martin Luther King, Jr. Maybe others would like it. Nonviolent resistance is not aimed against oppressors but against oppression. Under its banner consciences... are enlisted.

Looking for examples of "what works" to cope with oppression in subsidized housing, one thing I have found helpful is websites where residents in housing where unfair treatment is going on can vent their feelings, share support, and warn others of abusive housing situations.

I think eventually the oppressive property owners, landlords, and managers will earn themselves bad reputations, and their properties will lose revenue until they correct their abuses, as a result of websites like these.

One example calls out a local housing authority called "Home Forward." Home Forward is Home Backwards

In another example, on the website of a local free alternative newspaper are reports and numerous complaints about severe abuses at a property of a very powerful property management company which owns a lot of subsidized housing properties all over this metro area.

Wouldn't it be awesome if websites were created for each oppressive apartment building, where residents could confidentially tell the truth about what was going on in each building, or if there were one centralized nationwide website where residents could do this?

Another effective thing might be to have a national organization that could meet once a year to hold workshops and conversations on dealing with this subsidized housing oppression issue, and to report to the national group of people meeting about what is going on in each building.

I belong to a national group that does this, and find it often works very effectively, when complaining about other forms of abuse (other than housing oppression,) that this national group works to correct.

A member of the group then has the option to write a letter to the offending local organization, and suggest to them that they might not want their abuses discussed, & their reputations ruined, at the national level.

I would like to read other suggestions on "what works," also.

Mary has suggested some ideas for our national effort, see Comment: A national organization for advocacy and support