Thursday, January 03, 2013

Homelessness Grows In Benton Harbor

In the land of Whirlpool Corp., the planet's largest multi-national appliance manufacturer, people starve in the cold.

page image
The community protests the opening of the Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course on public parkland in Benton Harbor, MI.
Photo/Brett Jelinek
By Rev. Edward Pinkney

BENTON HARBOR, MI—COGIC Village, a low-income apartment complex in Benton Harbor, Michigan is driving more and more residents out of the community into homelessness--or out of the town altogether. In addition, Black employees were fired, and apartment residents have been subject to racist slurs by the management company.

Carolyn, a now homeless, former resident of COGIC Village says: “If you have never been homeless,
it is tough to describe that first night sleeping on the street. The fear and disillusionment are paralyzing.
I was previously employed. Whirlpool Corporation started outsourcing all the manufacturing jobs. I lost
my job, home and car. I lost everything. Whirlpool makes life miserable for Benton Harbor’s poor.
Now that Whirlpool has built its office complex downtown, we can’t stay under the bridge where I sleep
with other homeless people. We are harassed constantly by Benton Harbor police who are promoting
Whirlpool’s agenda. I even was cited for sleeping on the sidewalk. It is a hard life. I moved into COGIC
Village Apartments. It was a living Hell, worse than living on the street. Kim Hunt, the apartment
building manager, fired all of the Black employees and hired her family and friends. Kim, a white
female, was brought in by President Rod Littlepage of Eagle Point Management to chase all the Blacks
out of the COGIC Village Apartments. Kim calls Black ladies “niggers” and “Black bitches.” If
someone stands up to her, she has them evicted. She has had many residents evicted. They are now
homeless. I would rather live in an abandoned building in the winter without heat, than live in
COGIC Village Apartments. I am again homeless.”

Whirlpool, the giant global corporation that rules the town of Benton Harbor is behind this inhuman
situation. Benton Harbor, once a thriving industrial town, has an unemployment rate of over 65
percent. The jobs left years ago. About 90% of the population now lives below the poverty line.
As the industrial base was desimated, Whirlpool and other big money interests launched a
“redevelopment” plan. That plan is to turn this lakefront town into a vacation land for the rich. What is
happening at COGIC Village is part of this plan to force the poor out and to bring the rich in.

The community is taking matters into their own hands. In October, people protested the mistreatment of
residents of COGIC Village. The demand was for management to remove Kim Hunt from her job and for
Manager Rod Littlepage to sit down with the group. This is an important step in defense of the poor and
against corporate power.