Citizen watchdog John Marshall Lee brought to the attention of the City Council Monday night “A local Section 8 complex for elderly and disabled has on two occasions in a recent five-week period failed to maintain availability of hot water for five days at a time.” Lee’s presentation to the legislative body included recitation of Langston Hughes’ Ballad Of The Landlord. Editor’s note: Twin Towers is the housing complex in question in the commentary. Connecticut Legal Services has been examining similar issues in other housing locations.
When you are asked to think of a vulnerable population in your community, where does your attention go? Do you tune out, saying, “That’s not my problem. Good luck”” Or does your mind move to children, the elderly, the disabled, or those who have suffered past abuse or trauma that impairs their world today? It can be a broad world that demands much of mercy and charity from the community. It also demands accountability from those who have taken a position as stewards of vulnerable people. How does owner/management respond to elected tenant representatives?
Housing is one area where those who are poorest have real issues when it comes to shelter from the elements, safety within their four walls, a healthy environment free of lead, rodent or insect threats and a management responsive to issues and concerns as they arise. Who holds management to their duties and responsibilities when they fail to uphold basic quality of life standards, ignore stated limits for occupancy of one-bedroom units, or allow businesses to function within residences? Who gets into ‘hot water’ for failure to administer fairly and with justice for all?
And today ‘hot water’ is the issue in a least one locality. When the mechanicals in a housing complex become old, sometimes they begin to deliver intermittently, or weakly or possibly not at all. A local Section 8 complex for elderly and disabled has on two occasions in a recent five-week period failed to maintain availability of hot water for five days at a time. That is a quality of life omission according to lawyers familiar with housing law. What if it happens that service of equipment is uneven and some tenants get lukewarm water, at best, and others get only cold water? Or what happens when a pipe breaks, the Fire Department is called to close off the break, and no matter what is done to restore appropriate water circulation, residents are left with incomplete restoration of walls and interiors leading to unhealthy mold conditions?
Today we are raising the simple issue of ‘hot water’ for bathing and for kitchen use. Whom do you call? How long do you reasonably wait? What is fair and just for people who live in public housing? Are their consequences for those who fail to care for or seek to profit from the exercise or abuse of their power? Time will tell.
BALLAD OF THE LANDLORD
By Langston Hughes
My roof has sprung a leak.
Don’t you ‘member I told you about it
Way last week?
These steps is broken down.
When you come up yourself
It’s a wonder you don’t fall down.
Ten Bucks you say I owe you?
Ten Bucks you say is due?
Well, that’s Ten Bucks more’n I’ll pay you
Till you fix this house up new.
What? You gonna get eviction orders?
You gonna cut off my heat?
You gonna take my furniture and
Throw it in the street?
Um-huh! You talking high and mighty.
Talk on–till you get through.
You ain’t gonna be able to say a word
If I land my fist on you.
Come and get this man!
He’s trying to ruin the government
And overturn the land!
Headlines in press:
MAN THREATENS LANDLORD
TENANT HELD NO BAIL
JUDGE GIVES NEGRO 90 DAYS IN COUNTY JAIL.
(LANGSTON HUGHES READER, 1957, p. 101)