Thursday, June 7, 2007

The Woman Who Had Me Arrested

Kathleen Lingenberg, director of the city’s Housing and Neighborhood Development, is leaving her job after eleven years because she’s moving out of Springfield and won’t meet the city’s residency’s requirement.

I couldn’t begin (not objectively) to sum up her contributions to Springfield, so let me just say what is true for me:

First, I guess, I will have to remember her as the woman who got me arrested—at least I’m pretty sure she was the one who decided, seeing as she was running the public auction of city-owned property where I stood up and spoke out of turn.

We ( me, Arise, homeless people) had been asking the city for months to give some tax-title property to homeless people to fix up. I and other Arise members and homeless people politely crashed the auction. We weren’t supposed to be there, because we didn’t have the thousand bucks entry fee, but we got by the doorkeepers, passed out flyers, and just stayed. At some point I noticed that a half dozen police officers were situated around the room.

When 25 St. James Ave. came up on the auction block, a building that would have made a perfect boarding house, and that we’d asked for, I stood up and spoke and got hauled away by the cops. The rest is another story.

Second, I know Kathleen did not use all of the power at her disposal to shut Springfield's Sanctuary down. If she and other department heads had used their full weight against us, we would probably not have been able to survive. But she didn’t. The following spring she and Health and Human Services Director met with some of us from Arise to talk about possibly cooperating on a new tent city should that become necessary. Mayor Ryan wound up squelching that idea, and in any case the Warming Place shelter stayed open, but I never doubted her sincerity in trying to come up with a mutual solution.

Next, Kathleen is one of the bluntest people I know. She will never tell you something just because she thinks that’s what you want to hear. Seeing as I am like that to quite a degree myself, we tended to have good, if infrequent, exchanges.

Finally, Kathleen represented and promoted a housing policy designed for the city that we want to have, not for the city we are. That means a focus on home ownership and the discouragement proposals for new, affordable rental housing. For the 25% “officially poor” people in Springfield, probably for the 40% of the residents who struggle to meet their basic needs, it’s a policy that leaves them, sometimes literally, out in the cold.

I don’t expect any magic policy changes when Kathleen steps down and someone else takes her place. Mayor Ryan, his competition Domenic Sarno, the vast majority of other city officials and the remaining middle and upper classes in this city feel the same way she does.

I wish her luck. Springfield, however, will need more than luck if we are ever to figure out how all the residents in this city can meet their need for decent, affordable housing.

1 comment:

Christopher Verzonilla said...


Good morning... This is the first post of your blog that I've come acrossed. I noticed that you include resources under your "A PLACE TO LIVE - LINKS". Please include our website. We've worked vigoursly to create a valuable resource for the homeless and low-income. We now have over 3,000 listings nationwide all of which consist of Emergency Shelters, Transitional Housing and related residential programs. Our website is

Thank you for founding Arise for Social Justice and taking time to serve our community.

Arise for Social Justice.

Christopher Verzonilla, Executive Director
Shelter Listings