Renita Williams was stunned by the flier she found tacked to her door after she arrived home from her college class in February.
It was a brightly colored notice from the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency advertising employment services for her and other residents in the low-income Alder Grove and Marina Vista public housing complexes.
The program seemed well-intentioned, she said Tuesday. But she couldn’t believe the flier included a picture of three women conversing, especially an African American woman dressed in a low-cut top, saying, “Today was my 4th interview and, ‘I still ain’t got hired nowhere!’ I really need a job!!! Maybe it was something I said ...”
Williams, 24, said she was furious to think that SHRA employees see the people living in her community that way.
“To just get out of school where I’m pushing to better myself and to get home and see something like that, it discouraged me,” said Williams, a Sacramento City College student pursing a degree in administration of justice and psychology, in a phone interview.
After she posted the picture on social media, her sister urged her to bring the matter to the City Council’s attention. Both women addressed the council on Tuesday.
“We’re supposed to be uplifting our people, not bringing them down,” Robernique Williams-Rose told the council. “(My sister) goes to school every day working on her bachelor’s degree; she’s doing what she needs to do to get ahead, and to see something like this being posted on her door is telling her it’s OK to take a step back.”
Councilwoman Angelique Ashby, who lived in low-income housing for part of her life, called the flier incredibly offensive.
“Not only is it repressive, but it’s offensive from a gender perspective as well,” she said. “There are a lot of people living in low-income housing for a variety of reasons. It doesn’t mean that they don’t know how to dress and they don’t know how to speak.”
She committed to finding out who authorized the flier and preventing it from happening again.
SHRA Executive Director La Shelle Dozier apologized on Wednesday and said the agency took immediate steps to ensure future fliers are more appropriate.
“In an attempt to inform residents in two of our public housing communities about an exciting job opportunities program that SHRA has created, we distributed approximately 480 flyers that contained wording we thought would be helpful to residents looking for employment,” Dozier said in an emailed statement. “We couldn’t have been more wrong in our approach to communicate our message.”
Williams said a representative from SHRA called her Wednesday morning to apologize. The representative asked Williams to meet with SHRA management and the Resident Services Department to discuss her concerns.
Williams said she attended one of the February meetings about the employment services on the flier, despite her feelings, because she didn’t have a job. She was told to expect a phone call in a few days but never heard back.
“I’d just like to acknowledge that SHRA is seeking to fix the problem,” Williams said. “But if they were aware of the residents that they’re managing, then the problem would have never come up.”