my information

--- Issued Jan. 14, 2008

A letter to the editor written by John E. Horan and published Sunday, Jan. 13, in the Erie Times-News took issue with a Waterford man who, in a Jan. 1 letter to the editor, called public housing residents "generation after generation of professional leeches who only do the minimum required to collect a check every month."

The Waterford man, Robert Borland, had written to criticize the Erie Housing Authority's plans to install air conditioning in Erie's public housing apartments.

Horan's letter was abbreviated by the newspaper because of space constraints. His entire letter is printed below:

"This is in response to Waterford resident Robert Borland’s recent letter to the editor concerning air conditioning of Erie’s public housing apartments. His letter merits a response because it speaks against everything Erie public housing is about. In Erie, public housing is about people. It’s about getting them off welfare and onto the economic ladder. It’s about helping them achieve self-sufficiency. It’s about temporary housing assistance while they get on their feet and move into the mainstream of society. It’s about the American dream, helping our residents so they too can eventually buy their own homes with the money they earn at their own jobs.

"Unfortunately, Mr. Borland’s letter helps perpetuate the negative and generally false stereotype about families who live in public housing, The facts are as follows: most of the families who reside in public housing are working and have employment as their income source, not welfare. The average stay for a family in public housing is four years. Hardly a “generation after generation of professional leeches.” No one gets to stay on welfare for 10 years anymore, as Mr. Borland states. Those individuals residing in public housing who are not working are senior citizens on Social Security, or persons with disabilities who are unable to work. Each year approximately 50 families leave public housing to purchase their first house. Another 250 families move from public housing to the private rental sector.

"The Erie Housing Authority has worked diligently over the last 30 years to modernize public housing so that it is a community asset, not a liability. Adding air conditioning is just another step in that process. If the resident chooses to use the air, they will pay for the electric consumption.

"In addition to providing safe, decent and affordable housing for needy families, it is also our mission to assist our families to achieve economic self-sufficiency. We provide them with educational opportunities, job training, language skills, and job placement; all designed to make sure that the housing assistance is, in fact, temporary.

"Just a sampling of our distinguished public housing graduates include: Tom Ridge; former superintendent of schools, Ray Dombrowski; architect Bob Crowner; attorneys Fletcher Gornall and Larry Meredith; fitness guru Billy Blanks; NFL football players Cliff Crosby and Dietrich Jells; prison administrator Veronica Gambill; former school principal Greg Myers; regional director office of Pennsylvania Attorney General, Dennis Tobin; regional director office of United States Senator, Art Martinucci; former Millcreek schools business manager Fred Garnon, Jr.; founder Lower East Side Sports Center, Mathew DeForce; County councilwoman Carol Loll; NAACP chair Dorothy Smith-Frazier; former NBA official Paul Michalak; United States Army Colonel Doris Tate-Johnson; and former police chief Chuck Bowers. The Housing Authority was here when their families needed a hand. Their contributions to society have repaid our assistance many times over.

"The poor will always be with us. Contrary to the prevailing stereotype, most are hard working and will become contributing members of society once they get on their feet. Air conditioning their apartments will not deter them from their goal of economic self-sufficiency."

John Horan
Executive Director and Secretary
Erie Housing Authority


For more information, contact John Horan at 452-2425.

To see examples of what Erie's public housing is really all about, click here and here.