Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald also raised concerns about possible misspending in a letter to the commission in November 1997. Housing Authority Director Don Smith insists that expenditures are closely monitored.
Shen-Urquidez dismisses the Gardenhire case as a fluke and that the real problems stem from power struggles and jealousies among resident leaders.
“It’s a very scary situation where what you are trying to do is help people who are not as privileged, who don’t have the education, the amenities in life, and you are trying to help them become independent and self-sufficient,” she says. “And at the same time, once they become a little bit stronger and they want to become independent and self-sufficient, it’s almost like the teenager who is trying to get out of the house when they are not ready to.”
The challengers to the status quo at the Housing Authority say Shen-Urquidez’s comments are typical of the condescending way it treats residents. “This is truly a sad thing,” Ochoa says. “The poorest in the city have what little they get taken away from them. It’s just terrible.”