Ups and downs in tenant-management relations

Pamela Goodwin at Salem Willows

Free at Last

Pamela Goodwin has decided that living in a tent is preferable to seeking peaceful enjoyment in Upton public housing where she experienced bullying and hostile environment harassment.

Goodwin is an advocate for tenants' rights who has also been fighting for her own rights in the public housing in Upton, Mass.  She is a bright, energetic person whose knowledge of rules and regulations often exceeds that of the government officials and experts.

Slander, bullying, mobbing, and refusal to provide reasonable accommodations and assure peaceful enjoyment have been unrelenting assaults on her health and well-being. To add injury to insult, a tree fell on and destroyed her car parked in the lot used by tenants of the housing authority.

All the harassment and allegedly improper actions of management and the housing authority seem to have been focused on getting rid of Goodwin. Pamela said that "Witnesses heard at the appeal hearing before the Board of Commissioners that [I was offered a deal that] I would owe nothing, and would get a good review of my last five years' residency if I simply agreed to leave." She reported that the pilot DHCD attorney representing the housing authority had offered to forgive all claims of past due rent if Goodwin would leave. People familiar with the situation in Upton have asserted that the management does not do a professional and competent job.

Pamela has tried every possible state agency and avenue for help, fair play, and justice, but without success. Her experiences point to a major failure of the social service network and housing system in the Commonwealth, because they just don't always provide support and justice for the poor, the elderly, or the disabled. She has decided to move out of Upton to escape the constant harassment and danger and prefers to live in her car or a tent, camping out at least for the summer.

Pamela has retreated, but she has not been defeated. Her struggle for fair and appropriate responses, including for reasonable accommodation requests, demonstrated the failure of all the offices and agencies that we should be able to rely on. This makes even more urgent our efforts to create new, effective protections and remedies. Pamela is a trail-blazer who should be honored for her efforts.

Annette Duke, an attorney at Mass Law Reform Institute and Sara Byrnes of the Mel King Institute hosted an online session on Tuesday, July 31, where Pamela Goodwin presented feedback on a Mel King training on housing regulations. The next day, she was setting up a tent.

More about Pamela Goodwin

Building Strength: Charter Street Tenant Association in Salem

Calvin Young is the President of the Charter Street Tenant Association (CSTA) in Salem. Charter Street is a public housing residence in the heart of Salem that has many artists, musicians, and writers whom he sees as a catalyst for residents to come together in community activities. He is working closely with management to focus on issues of importance to residents, and the CSTA supports residents seeking their rights from management.  They have joined the Mass Union of Public Housing Tenants, and are working on establishing a non-profit, 501(c)3 organization. Calvin has ambitious plans for the CSTA, including getting training for the board, and then creating and representing a network of other public housing developments in Salem. The CSTA has started to do surveys of the tenants to better understand their needs and concerns. CSTAA’s safety survey is completed with 24 tenants responding.  About 60% had suffered abuse or witnessed abuse and about 60% found that the homeless people residing in the building was a problem.

Calvin Young wrote,

"The journey to attain the goal [of eliminating bullying and homeless people in the building] is based [on building a strong community---not on what the Salem Housing Authority can do for the tenants, but, rather, on what tenants together can do for themselves with a supportive SHA."