The Spring 2013 issue of Tenant Talk, a publication of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, contains a moving essay by Gloria More about organizing her fellow tenants of the Eastwood Terrace, a property in Nacogdoches, Texas:
The view outside my window painted a dismal scene.
I closed my eyes and tried to picture the building when it was new. There was a time when this place was beautiful, with fresh paint, neatly kept grass, strong roofs for adequate protection from the Texas winters, and air-conditioning that provided a reprieve from the harsh heat of Texas summers. I opened my eyes and was immediately reminded of the current reality. Like much of the building’s other features, the fresh paint had long ago chipped away, and the once kept grass had grown so tall that snakes hid in it.
But it was more than a rundown building that inspired me to try and change things. There was the matter of fairness. I thought of neighbors that were being charged late fees, not because they didn’t have their rent ready in time but because the manager was never there to receive it. This was a community that deserved to be treated fairly, to feel safe, and to have a manager available to address their needs.
I had to do something; I had to at least try. So I picked up the phone. My first call was to Sandy at the Texas Tenants’ Union. I explained to her the situation my neighbors and I were living in. I explained how my neighbors, some of whom are elderly or disabled, were forced to make multiple trips in the unbearable heat to the management office because the manager was rarely there. I explained how neither the property’s upkeep nor the residents were respected by management, and how many of us lived in fear because of all the crime at the property. Sandy was tremendously helpful. Together we drafted a letter outlining the problems and the actions we felt should be taken. I hung up the phone feeling optimistic. A few days later, Sandy sent me the letter, and tasked me with collecting signature from others in the building.
Then the real work began.
The full essay can be found here.