Geography Reference
In-Depth Information
low-income families. Second, it provided access to material resources due to reduced
competition for donated food, clothing, gifts, and in-kind services provided by local
philanthropists. Third, these neighborhoods provided access to safety by reducing the
women's exposure to physical violence and theft. Fourth, the children of welfare de-
children with special needs. Fifth, concealing one's welfare status provided access to
privileged social networks and social capital. Sixth, concealing one's welfare status me-
diated welfare stigma by providing respectability.
Theresa: Respectability and the Class Closet
Theresa is a forty-nine-year-old, white woman and former welfare recipient. Theresa is
the twice divorced mother of four children. In 1981, at age eighteen, she married her
first husband, a white man. Shortly after she became pregnant with her son David, her
husband, was incarcerated and would remain in and out of the criminal justice system
for the next thirty years. She gave birth to her eldest son, David, in August 1982 and
her daughter, Krissy, in December 1983. Theresa eventually divorced her first husband
in 1985 and left her two children in the care of paternal relatives in Portland, Maine.
Her second husband, who is socially classified as a black American, is the father of
her two youngest children. Her third son, Mark, was born in September 1992 and her
youngest son, Sean, in April 1994. Her children, however, can be socially classified as
olive skinned white ethnics, which protects them from the overt racism that children be-
ing parented by women (mothers) classified as black and of visible African ancestry,
routinely encounter in the Boston area.
Theresa and her second husband were married in 1995 in order to qualify for Section
in the summer of 1998, Theresa made the decision to move her family into one of Bo-
ston's suburbs. One of the strategies that Theresa employed in order to secure housing
in a residentially segregated community, was to lie about her biography and conceal her
welfare status. In her view she had no other choice after being denied housing sever-
al times. Describing the difficulty of trying to access housing reserved for middle-class
employed families, she explains why she began to conceal (or lie) about her employ-
ment status. She states,
I remember when I was looking for places when my kids were little and me and
my ex had the Section 8. I ran into a lot of deterrents…. Once … like you know,
you can feel … you know how you can feel … I went to one apartment. I went
togolookatit.ItwasinSwamp-scott. Itwasreallynice.Itwasuponthehill….
It's very wealthy. It's a lot of real ritzy people. I didn't say I had Section 8 be-
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