In Housing, Humble Can Mean Health Risk: Farm Workers' Trailer Parks Often Unsafe, but Alternatives Are Scarce

By Jones, Arthur | National Catholic Reporter, August 29, 2003 | Go to article overview

In Housing, Humble Can Mean Health Risk: Farm Workers' Trailer Parks Often Unsafe, but Alternatives Are Scarce


Jones, Arthur, National Catholic Reporter


HEALTH AND HOUSING A THREE-PART SERIES

* Part One: Rural poor make a home in California's grape growing desert.

* Part Two: Catholic hospitals focus resources on housing nearby elderly.

* Part Three: Rural elderly housing and inner city health promotion signal two routes to healthier places to live.

In Mecca, Calif., farm workers found a place so poor they could afford to live there. It is a place that brings together two aspects of the U.S. health care crisis: the working poor seeking physical and mental health care, and the contradictions inherent in the healthy dignity of owning a humble place of one's own--yet so humble as to be a health risk.

In a nutshell: "Housing is a health issue." So said John Mealy, shaded from the burning desert sun by a tried overhang outside Clinic, as de Salud del Pueblo, part of the Nueva Vista Apartments in Mecca. So say many others nationwide, groups as diverse as Mercy Housing, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Mealy is executive director of the Coachella Valley Housing Coalition. The coalition helped fund and construct the Nueva Vista complex and clinic setting.

Housing may not make it alongside diet, exercise and cholesterol levels on most lists of health factors, but "housing's a big factor in health," said medical director Dr. Rudy Alegria, inside the clinic. Poor housing translates directly into poor health because it "reflects the general financial situation, so you're going to have substandard sanitary conditions--old houses, problems with doubtful [drinking] water, diarrhea, elevated lead levels." But, he said, there's far more than that.

Not usually factored in, he continued, is the ill health associated with family stress, particularly "the mental stress from overcrowding, from doubling up." This is on top of the constant financial stress simply from being poor. Parents, said Alegria, are besieged by questions such as, "How can I make the rent? Where will we go if we're thrown out?"

And in Mecca, as the story unfolds, being thrown out of parqueaderos, low-rent trailer camps--or overcrowded housing--has been a constant threat for many families during the past couple of years. And it continues.

Los Angeles-born clinic director Alegria, 11 years in his job, said, "I have to be half medical doctor, half psychiatrist--because people haven't enough money to go for counseling."

Riverside County, Calif. is primarily a desert county so huge it runs from the Los Angeles-Orange County lines to the Arizona border 200-miles away, one of those vast stretches of mainly arid nothingness airline passengers gaze down on as their plane approaches the Los Angeles International Airport.

On its Western perimeter the county is not all poverty. Here are cities like watered, mansioned and millionaired Palm Springs. Not even an hour further east, there's Mecca, described by the housing coalition as "an unincorporated rural area with a large migrant farm worker population." It is the farm workers' own capital city of sorts in the desert.

For poverty this area ranks with the worst of the Mississippi Delta and the more depressed U.S. inner cities, even though the farm worker residents work hard at whatever jobs they can get.

Housing coalition director Mealy estimates that annual family income, with mother and father and all the kids over 16 working, is between $16,000 and $20,000 a year.

An adult farm worker, during two months or so following the harvest, and sleeping at the side of the picking fields on a sheet of cardboard or in the back of his pickup to save nightly rent money, might take home $8,000, said Emanuel Benitez, community worker with California Rural Legal Assistance, and a former farm worker himself.

Cheap trailers, cheap rents

But like other Americans, migrant farm workers do not want a life of permanent displacement.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

In Housing, Humble Can Mean Health Risk: Farm Workers' Trailer Parks Often Unsafe, but Alternatives Are Scarce
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.