Rick was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to take the group on a tour of Houston, looking at various different neighborhoods as well as the city. I think it was vital experience for us all to enable us to put into context the 'project row houses' and the environment in which it was running. I was blown away by the contrast in neighborhoods that literally bordered one another. The tour consisted of going through other areas of third ward and Rick was very informative pointing out the historic borders of some of the wards and the demographic of each area. For me personally the most interesting part of the tour was to see the new developments in the city which is something which seems to be regular practice for some of the large developers in the city. It seemed that large developers could erect new buildings, housing complexes at will and the cultural fabric of the city and the history of the city was suffering as a result.
The contrast was something that I myself have not seen before. Some areas were housed the more affluent population where houses were absolute magnificent. All the surrounding areas and infrastructure were kept in impeccable condition. These areas compared to some of the 'ghettos' housing mainly african american and mexican people were in dire condition. Areas were generally unkept with many abandoned housing. Many of these areas had issues with drugs, gang violence and prostitution. I can honestly say, that although elements of this exist in the United Kingdom i have never been exposed to economic segregation to the extent of what I've seen in Houston
What was empowering however, was to see how empowered people from some less well to do areas were in their struggle to keep their communities in tact and to preserve the character and history of many local areas/wards. I can think of many times in the UK where issues may arise but communities lack the togetherness, leaders and generally are not empowered enough to fight for the cause. During my trip I've seen many examples of an empowered community working together something 'project row houses' is the living embodiment of.
Overall very useful tour, really put the project into prospective and really made me relaise how the project is multi-layerd and not just houses used for art but encompass several issues, social injustices in the United States and particularly in Houston.
Wasif Bhatti (Lancashire Young People Service)