St. Thomas Development Neighborhood Snapshot
Census 2000 Data Tables: People & Household Characteristics, Housing & Housing Costs, Income & Poverty, Transportation, Employment, Educational Attainment, Disabilities, Neighborhood Characteristics (Note: this data does not reflect post-demolition numbers)
As of the 2000 Census there were still some 2,957 residents in the census tracts associated with the St. Thomas Housing Development. But as of August 30, 2001 1393 units (of the 1,429 that were counted in the 2000 census) were demolished. Five buildings were saved for historical purposes. The data about this neighborhood, therefore, are no longer accurate. Most of the residents have been moved to the surrounding neighborhood in the Lower Garden District (also known as "St. Thomas Area", or to New Orleans East.
Highlights of the housing developments history
In the depths of the Great Depression, many families became homeless and many others were at risk of homelessness. Nationwide, there was great concern about this situation, which led to the passage of the United States Housing Act of 1937. The Housing Act, also known as the Wagner Bill, instituted the United States Housing Authority within the Department of the Interior. Its mission was to provide public housing for low-income families. The Housing Authority was to contract with local housing officials to construct dwellings.
In 1937, New Orleans became the first city in the United States to benefit under the Wagner Act. The loan application that provided funding for the St. Thomas housing development was the first contract signed by President Roosevelt under the Wagner Bill. St. Thomas originally included 970 dwelling units contained in a multitude of two and three story solid masonry brick buildings arranged around outdoor spaces, now typical of New Orleans public housing developments. In 1952, 540 more housing units were added.
St. Thomas housing development was originally designated for white occupants only. After the Civil Rights Act of 1964, all of the citys public housing projects were desegregated. At that time, the residents were a group of racially diverse, low-income, working class families.
In the late 60s/early 70s, many of these families were forced out when the federal government decided that their income was too high. At the same time, there was a decrease in social services in the housing developments a decrease many attribute to the money going into the Vietnam war.
The exodus of industry
from the inner city plunged the St. Thomas residents into great poverty,
and subsequent white
flight meant that, in recent years, residents were primarily African
Past community organizing in St. Thomas Housing Development
The St. Thomas housing development has been the site of many progressive activities, such as the St. Thomas Irish Channel Consortium. The Plain Talk program, the motto of which was It takes a whole village to raise a child, promoted a cohesive community spirit and a community-wide sense of responsibility. Black Men United for Change Inc. was "an anti-racist organization of African American males working for spiritual peace, Black unity and self-determination through a sense of identity." St. Thomas Peacekeepers was an unarmed community peacekeeping team that addresses community safety and security issues.
A major plan to revitalize the housing developments in New Orleans was conceived in the late 1990s. The idea is to try to integrate St. Thomas back into the surrounding neighborhood. The plan, including the building of a new WalMart in the area, is the source of a tremendous amount of controversy.
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Last modified: October 4, 2002