The Effect of the Housing Crisis on Westside Community Health
A Focus on Historical and Present-Day Epidemics/Pandemics
The Effect of the Housing Crisis on Westside Community Health:
A focus on historical and present-day epidemics/pandemics
San Antonio’s Westside boasts one of the oldest public housing developments built between 1939 and 1942, the Alazán-Apache courts. The Westside, due to redlining, is made up of predominantly Hispanics (93%) who are of lower socioeconomic status (40% poverty rate). Residents in the past were vulnerable to disease due to poor public health infrastructure. For example, Westside neighborhoods lacked clean water and adequate sewage system. These were breeding grounds for disease. Deplorable living conditions made it more likely for residents to contract various diseases.
San Antonio, has experienced its fair share of outbreaks. In 1849 San Antonio witnessed a cholera outbreak which resulted in approximately 600 deaths. Lack of adequate health care contributed to the high death count. In 1866, another cholera outbreak resulted in 292 deaths. This prompted the city to consider its infrastructure and implement ways to remove and drain stagnant water. In 1913, San Antonio’s Fourth Ward Health Auxiliary recognized the impact of poor sanitation and worked with city council to put measures in place for garbage disposal. In 1939 First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt commented on the high tuberculosis rates in San Antonio and the need for public housing which initiated the building of the Alazán-Apache courts. In 1946 San Antonio experienced the polio epidemic and in 1970 a diphtheria outbreak. Many of the cases of the diphtheria outbreak were in the poorer Mexican American neighborhoods. The high infection and death rates were a result of inadequate public health infrastructure.
Poor Mexican American neighborhoods, including San Antonio’s Westside, have experienced several public health crises. Many of these crises are due to poor housing conditions. A past and present burden on Westside communities is the shortage of affordable housing. As it was with past epidemics, today, with talk of demolishing Alazán-Apache courts, it means, many Westside citizens may find themselves displaced from their communities. The stress of displacement often leads to social problems such as: depression, drug abuse and increased risk of teen pregnancies. It also highlights how housing policies contribute to racial segregation and social inequalities. Continued research focuses on how social interventions (eg. housing) may alleviate or exacerbate inequalities in the way people experience epidemics.