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The inner core city within a city another in a series of programs recorded in Milwaukee by W A.J. the University of Wisconsin and focusing on the problems people and conditions of our inner cities. Today we bring you a conversation between Ralph Johnson of WAGA radio and one of the community workers in the inner core. Their discussion focuses on the problems of housing and welfare and begins as the community worker describes the problems of one of the families she helps. She originally was contacted by my neighborhood worker and the neighborhood worker discovered that Mrs. Davis was having very deep problems as far as housing particularly getting repair work done within her house. She had contacted her landlord. So within three months probably once a week trying to get the man to do something about three pair were there were there was a window out that was covered up by a board instead of a new window. There's no linoleum on the floor. There was no sidewalk leak leading
to the house and because of this any time it would rain or snow there'd be mud puddles actually out in front of the house. There was plaster falling out of the walls painting needed to be done and none of this repair work had been taken care of. Mrs Davis came into the office originally asking us if there was some way that we could speak on her behalf to the landlord and try to get him to do something. After she came in I spoke with the landlord and discovered that. The landlord involved was one who had been who is in court two or three times a week because of failure to meet health standards. As far as his housing was concerned he promised me at that particular time when I called and the latter part of December that he would meet the following day with. Me and he would see what repair work had to be done and he would be more than happy to do it. Mrs. DAVIS by the way now has never missed a rent payment so there
was no problem there. Or does Mrs. Davis governor and she's not Mrs. Daviss I'm well aware she's receiving a D.C. has met the welfare worker involved in this case has an extremely maternalistic type of attitude towards Mrs. DAVIS. She thinks of her as a child. She thinks of her children. She actually uses words that they are like destructive little animals and she blamed all of the destruction of the property on the children. Now when I spoke to her about repair work I found out through that our neighborhood worker and through Mrs. Davis that what happened originally when she moved into this place was the caseworker came out found the place and moved her in. She hadn't even looked at the place before she was moved and she just packed her up into a truck and moved her over to this place and she had no one had made a decision one way or another
was and left up to her. Her caseworker is extremely condescending attitude towards her. The repair work that was needed was nothing that could have been done by children such as no linoleum that was ever on the floor to begin with paint work that had been neglected for years plastering falling off of the top of the wall the roof was in bad shape and like I said there was no sidewalk No this had nothing to do with destruction of children. And did you see how much money she's paying for these homes. She's paying $65 without utilities and with the condition of the house being such that it would cause drafts through the house the heat bill will probably run anywhere between 40 and 50 dollars a month during the cold season. She's got about a five room place and like I said she's paying $65 without utilities. You must find it pretty skimpy growing within you say six children. Oh yes she has six children
and anyone else also living in the house. No there isn't anybody else living to chuse you to divorce direction from. Yes she separated right now. And what happened as far as a landlord was concerned I contacted him you agreed to after meeting the neighborhood work around it and this is Davis's place that he would start that week doing the repair work for Mrs. Davis comes into our office several times for other problems that are existing within the family at any point and every week I would check to see if the repair work had been started and if it hadn't I would call him so I was calling him every week for about 6 weeks and finally I just decided to forget it and make a formal complaint to the health department because I realized at that point that he wasn't going to do anything unless actual legal pressure was brought to bear on the situation. I contacted the Health Department and they sent out a health inspector. When he got out there he wrote up the housing violations against the landlord. He also wrote up the
housing violation against Mrs. Davis for roach investment. Mrs. Davis lives in a single unit dwelling and under the housing ordinance of Milwaukee and in a single unit the tenant is responsible if there are rats or roaches on the property. However the housing ordinance also stipulates the general condition of the house is such that it would cause rats or roaches that the tenant is not responsible. After I discovered that Mrs Davis had received this notice from the health department I called the health inspector. I spoke with him about this and asked him if it wasn't true that the general condition of the House would have caused roaches no matter what Mrs. Davis had done and he agreed that that house would cause roaches and there was nothing probably that could be done. And even though he agreed with this he said that it's just the general policy of the Health Department to serve the tenant with this notice and he couldn't do anything. And so I decided instead of waiting around for court action
which usually involves a one hour fine anyhow for the landlord that I would just let it go and try to take care of the roach investment through the house through the Department of Public Welfare. I called up the store will kill extermination and they determined that it would cost approximately $35 for the extermination of professional extermination. When I talk to the health inspector he verified that it would take a professional extermination because the roaches were through the wrongs and just brain would never do the job. I contacted the caseworker to get. The $35 for Mrs. Davis and she refused to give her the $35 she has an attitude such that she can reward and punish Mrs. DAVIS If Mrs. Davis is good children boarder if she's bad she can punish or and she decided that it would be good for Mrs Davis to get the chance to take money out of her own budget to take care of this because this would make her feel so happy. Her budget.
When is that one hundred twenty nine dollars a month for six children and herself. And there was no everything as stipulated as for so much for clothing personal needs etc. as in any welfare budget. And there was no way conceivable that she could afford to take $35 out of the budget unless she would go without eating and I explained this to her particular caseworker she seemed to feel that you know if Mrs. Davis would just spray it that that would do the job and I explained that the health inspector had said that this would not be adequate. She still insisted that she would not give any money to Mrs. Davis for this extermination. And so at this point I contacted her supervisor and her supervisor wasn't very helpful so I contacted our postal worker. We have a welfare worker that works at our center as an outpost worker. I contacted him and he went. To the caseworkers offices folk with her and she told
him that if his people he's a negro caseworker if his people would keep their places clean that they would have. A place to live. And when I spoke he also indicated that it was Mrs. Davis's own fault that she was in the position she was and she really didn't deserve good housing right now because she wasn't ready for. This is something somebody has to become prepared for and maybe in five to six years she could get her into public housing if she was good and kept her place clean and showed that she had promises as far as being a good housekeeper when you form a million neighborhood workers who were her agents who were going by the neighborhood workers work in our center they are people from the neighborhood who go into the homes and their outreach workers they go into the homes and try to find out what problems exist in the family. If our agency can
be of any service to them they try to encourage them to become part of our advisory board which is whichever is made up of people from the neighborhood and advises us on the needs of the neighborhood. But then we used the term caseworker this is a case worker as a welfare worker from the Department of Public Welfare. At any rate this reach worker from the Department of Public Welfare who is actually stationed at our center decided then to go to her supervisor which in turn did no good. So he finally went to his supervisor and the matter was taken care of and her caseworker called me back and explained that there was the Department of Public Welfare had an exterminator of their own which would be doing he would be doing the job before this of course he never would admit that there was such a person in existence and that this could be done through welfare and so she conceded and decided that she would send
this man out for the extermination of the roaches to give me some idea of how bad the roach investment was in the home. Mrs. Davis also has physical disability she has a very bad hearing problem which in turn affects her speech pattern because of this I referred her to an ear specialist in Milwaukee and when she was at his office he was cleaning out her ears and he found a roach in her ear. This will give you some idea of how bad badly the house was infected infested with roaches. At this point the man has come out and exterminated the roaches. Generally I would say that the caseworker and the landlord has been extremely and cooperative been punitive in most of their actions towards Mrs. DAVIS. Extraordinary story. This year unusual. Is run under
other situations for both. Yes well see like I said like I stated before I am in charge of housing at our center. Generally when I do call. My landlords. As far as repair work when people come into the office requesting such service I get the story about how people don't keep up their property and their buildings are going to be torn down anyhow within the next three to five years and they don't feel it wise and their part to expend a great deal of money on repair work when their buildings are going to be torn down. The only power that we have. Which is pretty evident is to reported to the health department for the problem there once again is that the fines that are levied against these people are not strong enough for them to really feel obligated to do anything about it because it's cheaper for them to go into court five times a week and pay between 1 and $10 fine even though they could find them up to a hundred dollars
anyhow than it is for them to do the repair work that's necessary and they realize this so they just keep going back to court. Is that the real key of the court problem. But small fines are moot. Well that's not the real death not them. The main problem is just the first of all there the there's very little adequate housing in the inner core. Generally speaking the housing is very rundown. I would say that approximately 40 percent at any rate is in just such bad state that nobody should even be living there. The rest of that is livable but and so many cases it's certainly not a place where any white middle class family would agree to live. There's not enough housing because of the housing pattern in Milwaukee. People can move out of the corps and yet there have been 15000 people displaced by the highways going through and they have been
moved out of the corps they say that they're remaining in the Corps but there are just more people in less rooms and the space problem is extremely bad. And the real problem is just that there's no place for people to go. And so they stay here and some landlords know that they've got a thing going for them because they know that these people can't move out that they've got to move someplace and particularly in the cases of large families which you know most of the people in the Korea area do have anywhere from five children out on. And in this case particularly large families it's extremely difficult to find them a place to live even in a three bedroom situation when I called to check on the property. Most of the landlords insists that there are no more than three to four children in the three bedroom apartment. And there are too many three bedroom apartments to begin with but then when they set limitations as they do family size and the number of children it makes it an impossible task. And because of this situation they
move anywhere that. There is space available whether it's in good condition or not. And whether the rent is too high for what they are actually receiving etc.. If you had the power what would you do about a surcharge. First of all good and there. Are strong open housing bill which would enable people to move out of the Korea area at some time. The situation right now as far as I'm concerned housing is the major problem in the Morkie area. If a child doesn't have any place to go when he comes home from school to study he can't study whether he wants to or not and soon loses the motivation that everybody talks about but knows very little about when they're talking about it he has no place to study there's just no room for him to study. In order for a man to keep going to work every day he's got to see that he is reaping the rewards that everybody else reaps when they grow up to work eight hours a day. And if a man doesn't
have a decent place to move his family he finds little breeze and receives few other rewards he finds little reason to go out more hours a day hard. If this is the major thing at it this is the number one thing that has to be done. Somehow we've got to enforce a very strong open housing bill in the Morkie area. Because right now there's no place for people to go. Besides this I would set up some type of program which would be governments subsidized where they would tear down old housing in the Korea area and build new housing but not project style because are you doing when you're building projects is building vertical slums in essence. And I would tear down the property in the core and build up to family unit and rented out to
families for a low rent and give them the option to buy when they were renting the property out. The steps to be done at some time. You know one of the things I'm going around to various areas is a tremendous number of families with no food. What do these people do the fathers normally just separate just leave. Well you know as a parent it's a pattern that's been common since the days of the plantation actually. You will find that most of in of the inner core residents there was a very maternalistic society built. Now the reasons for these are many. One of the reasons is that a man comes to Milwaukee possibly from Mississippi where he's lived here all of his life. He's received a poor education because of the segregated school system that we have in Milwaukee which is generally inferior you know segregated education was determined
inferior in 1954 but we still haven't done anything about it. At any rate he has received a poor education. He gets if he stays in school if he's motivated enough to stay in school through high school he graduates from high school oftentimes reading a level of the sixth or seventh grade or he goes out from high school and he tries to find a job where he has all sorts of things working against him there. GIRL 1 he's got he's had a poor education. If he's graduated from high school he's still got a poor education compared to a white student graduating from high school. In most situations now when you apply for a job there's an employment test which is geared to one who has gone through basically a very middle class white background. And this test that is administered to those who come into offices seeking jobs oftentimes he'll fail to get a job for various reasons. If he
does get a job that's usually not an extremely good paying job. Generally speaking most of the males in this area get married at a relatively young age. He gets married and before he knows it he starts having children. And in many cases too since birth control information is not really distributed in the area of caseworkers as mere fact they're forbidden to distribute any information birth control because of lack of communication or birth control information is extremely assessable to most white middle class people but it's not to the negro in the inner core. And so if they use any birth control at all it's certainly not foolproof. In most cases there's a child every year every other year before he knows that he's got five children he's living in probably a crowded situation if he has a job it's not extremely good. Well pain. He's
lost what our society has determined. Masculinity the ability to support your family strength of the things that we hold up as the masculine values in society because of the fact that he can't be an effective father because of the fact that he can support his family. In most cases he feels that he's got to leave the situation he's just got to get away from it because it's defeating him. The children see a father who is unable to hold a job or holds a job but is unable to really meet the economic needs of the family. They have little respect for him and so he's virtually lost everything that would make him a man and in often cases is ashamed of the situation so depressed by it that he leaves the family more and more to be a real central problem.
You mean the family. You know I would agree with you I think that in so many cases because of the family structure in the inner core and certainly this can be blamed on the individuals in most cases because there are so many forces outside of them which are so uncontrollable. That the family situation does become very weak and unable to motivate children towards something better. It's it's very difficult to say what's the answer to it I think the answer to it is that somehow we've got to go through real honesty instead of political games in Washington and the state level on the local level. We've got to stop making promises and we've got to start acting. We've got to show people that there is a tomorrow that there is something to look forward to because in most cases people in the inner core do not live a life that's made of clever little plans like
for instance I did I knew when I was in grade school that I would go to college. I knew. When I was in college that I would be able to get a good job and I had all of these assurances. I came from a relatively strong family background but the people in the inner core don't have these things going for them and so they live a day to day existence they don't make plans for the future because it's mythical. In most cases we've got to start showing people that that there is some type of hope for the future and the only way we can do this is by start treating people on an equal basis by start being honest as far as praising the job situations in our cities realizing that it's unfair to give a almost a coward's entrance test to somebody who's applying for janitorial work. So just as in some companies in Milwaukee they
administer the Wonderlic test which is an extremely difficult test. I don't do well on those type of tests. And I know several people who I graduated with from college who wouldn't do well and their type of tests there are various reasons for people not doing well and the particular type of testing. And we've got to become aware of the fact that we've got to be realistic in our job qualifications. 10 years ago you didn't have to graduate from high school to become a janitor you didn't have to have a high school education to become a nurse's aide. We've got a 7 realistic standards as far and qualifications and actually what we've done instead of because of the fact that we so supposedly have equal employment instead of refusing somebody because of their color. Now we've set up all sorts of ridiculous standards and tests and then we can refuse them supposedly justifiably. We've got to start doing something as far as the housing
situation so that people will know that there are some pass ability of the moving into a decent situation at some time in their lives. There's so many things that has to be done the first of all we've got to start setting up commissions and studies and reports and all this other garbage that we do and start facing the situation realistically we've had more reports I'm a walking school system than some manageable. We've had reports on the riots we've had reports and the housing situation we're in and we keep getting promises but nothing is done. And people keep saying they don't understand why the residents of the corps are angry and why they demand something now and nothing can be done overnight. But unless you act like and less you demand that something is done now and act like it's got to be done now. Nothing is ever going to be done. You have been listening to a conversation between Ralph Johnson of WAGA radio
and one of the community workers in Milwaukee's inner core. And next week we bring you an exploration of one of the inner city's most pressing problems that of housing and titled A house to live in. The program touches on the issues of tenant landlord relations public housing urban renewal and open housing. These programs were originally heard over w AJ at the University of Wisconsin. During that station's intensive week of broadcasting focusing on Milwaukee's inner core city within a city began almost speaking. This is the national educational radio network.
The inner core: City within a city
Housing, Welfare and Employment
Producing Organization
University of Wisconsin
WHA (Radio station : Madison, Wis.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Series Description
For series info, see Item 3596. This prog.: An interview with one of the community workers in Milwaukee's Inner Core focusing on the problems of housing, welfare, and employment and featuring a discussion of welfare recipients and case workers.
Social Issues
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Producing Organization: University of Wisconsin
Producing Organization: WHA (Radio station : Madison, Wis.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-34-6 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:25:55
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Chicago: “The inner core: City within a city; Housing, Welfare and Employment,” 1968-10-09, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 29, 2024,
MLA: “The inner core: City within a city; Housing, Welfare and Employment.” 1968-10-09. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. February 29, 2024. <>.
APA: The inner core: City within a city; Housing, Welfare and Employment. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from