One street in St Louis, Missouri, has been known to residents as the "dividing line"
One street in St Louis, Missouri, has been known to residents as the “dividing line”


ST. LOUIS (The New York Times) — When she tore open the manila envelope on a sweltering morning in early June, Crystal Wade thought she had unlocked her ticket to freedom.

“The St. Louis Housing Authority is pleased to inform you,” the letter read, “that you have been determined eligible to participate in our Housing Choice Voucher Program.”

Colloquially referred to as a Section 8 voucher, it would allow her to use a housing subsidy at any suitable rental property she could find anywhere in the city or county of St. Louis. So as she wilted that June morning in her subsidized north side townhome, where the air conditioner was broken again, where a baseboard was black with mold from a leaky window, where she avoided the ground-floor living room for fear of catching a stray bullet, she began to dream of the possibilities.

And her top dream was a single-family rental home in the well-appointed suburbs to the west, where the school districts are among the best in the state and where she would be a quick drive to her job at a Verizon call center.

“It’s my way out from our messed-up system, our messed-up city,” said Ms. Wade, 25, who lives with her boyfriend and their three daughters.

But she quickly learned that when you’re black and poor, freedom has its limits.



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