Katherine Circle Public Housing Apartments

The past two days I have spent four hours at the Katherine Circle family public housing apartments to assist in giving free lunch to the residents. It turned out they didn’t need that much in assistance, but I still found the experience to be very rewarding from a research perspective and I think they found me to be decent entertainment for the kids so I wasn’t a bother. When I first arrived at the apartments I was surprised to realize I had actually already been there before. Last August I went on the 7 Generations pre-orientation trip. My specific trip was labeled Access to Housing and Healthcare. We stopped in one of the apartments in Katherine Circle and talked with an older woman living there. She lived in a household full of young children, all her daughter’s kids. I remember what struck me upon entering her house was seeing the children’s school papers, math tests, drawings, etc. covering every crevice of the walls. It warmed my heart seeing that this woman was putting such a strong emphasis on their schoolwork so that they might have a shot at breaking the cycle of poverty.

When I first arrived yesterday it was a little uncomfortable. I had no idea what to expect. I was told about this opportunity to volunteer by the Williamsburg Public Housing Manager, who I had a meeting with a few weeks back and have gotten a lot of background information from. She told me to request what days I wanted to volunteer and where and she would warn the person that was arranging the lunches. I thought this would be someone working for this city, but in fact it was just two members of the residences that were receiving this delivered food from a church in Hampton and putting it on a picnic table along with some games for the children that came. The two mothers that put it together definitely weren’t expecting my arrival, but after some initial hesitation and my explanation they welcomed me to join them. For the most part it was just neighborhood children and the two mothers that were there. The children ate and played games with each other, sometimes challenging me or the other adults. The older woman that I had met a year ago spent some time at the table too. Somehow we got to talking on a very personal level this afternoon. She asked me if I had any children, and I said no. She told me that that was good and keep it that way, to wait until marriage. In effort to not sound like some superior college girl I explained that my parents made that mistake. She told me that her daughter had too. It turned out that her daughter was bipolar, which I suppose might attribute to why she was taking care of all seven of her daughters children, the youngest being an adorable fifteen month old boy that loved to get into anything and everything he could (and I think I heard another child was on the way). This detail about her daughter was especially interesting to me since I’m the daughter of a schizophrenic mother. I explained to her that if it weren’t for my father I would be dependent upon government assistance as well, since my mother lives on social security. I think with that she found a new respect for me, and suddenly I felt even more welcomed into this tightknit group of neighbors and families. I was no longer just the random college girl, but someone they could acknowledge as having experienced some struggles similar to their own. I felt a real connection to these people. I’m going to a different public housing development the next three days and I am sad to not be returning to Katherine Circle. Right before I got into my car to leave one of the five year old girls I had played with ran out to me and hugged my leg, not wanting to let go until I was forced to pry her off. She renewed within me a passion for wanting to learn more.