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Alexander: "There's a crime problem on Armour, and a lot of people want to view it through the prism of Section 8. We try to have good tenants and we have a screening process and a one-strike-and-you're-out eviction policy if you don't behave. You can't rent in our buildings if you have a criminal background. You have to pass a credit-history check. You have to have a positive landlord reference. If they pass through all that screening, we can't say we don't want to rent to you just because you're Section 8. We can't choose based on the source of their income; that's illegal. Since we took over in 2006, we've spent more than a million dollars on private security services and of duty patrols. We've done more than 100 evictions since we've taken over. We spent $225,000 to pay for tenant services, including classes on how to write résumés and how to find jobs. There are all sorts of services there to help them become active participants in the neighborhood."
Clifford Doyle, 58, has lived in Hyde Park for 20 years but grew up in Chicago. There he saw projects like the notoriously violent Cabrini-Green firsthand. Today he does outreach for students in the Kansas City, Missouri, School District.
Doyle: "Kansas City is relatively behind the times. In another town, a developer wouldn't take a building like the Bainbridge or anything else on Armour and make a building 90 percent Section 8 housing. In Chicago, they don't allow that. I know young men are attracted to the females in that building, and the fact that they're coming down to visit is what causes a lot of the problems. I work with a lot of students who lived in the Bainbridge some years back. And when there were mixed incomes in that building, there was less crime in the building. You make it mixed-income, and you put people in there with other lifestyles and aspirations and make it a requirement to attend tenant meetings. Then the people who are Section 8 will come away with the desire to aspire to another level of existence as opposed to Section 8."
Lipscomb: [They] would like to see a reduction in Section 8 on Armour, and the association asked us how it can be done. Basically, if the complexes that have Section 8, as long as they're operating their buildings in accordance with the law, we cannot take any action to move residents or change Section 8. The message the neighborhood association seems to send is that we have all this Section 8 here, and if we get rid of Section 8, we'll get rid of the crime, and it's not necessarily true. There needs to be a community solution. HUD can't solve it. The police can't solve it alone; the neighborhood association can't do it alone."
Knott: "I think folks have moved into Hyde Park and allowed other people to tell them not to bother working with the people in those buildings or engaging them in this process. I've personally been told it's a waste of time to talk to the residents of those buildings. I've personally heard, at neighborhood meetings, people in those buildings referred to as Hyde Park residents 'in name only.' What does that even mean? I believe that there are people living in those apartments who are terrified."
Mercedes is in her early 20s and lives in the Bainbridge. She goes to school at UMKC during the day. She wears a black hoodie and jeans and carries a backpack. She doesn't know that anyone's been talking about the building where she lives.