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31 Harv. C.R.-C.L. L. Rev. 473 (1996)
Developing Microbusinesses in Public Housing: Notes from the Field

handle is hein.journals/hcrcl31 and id is 479 raw text is: DEVELOPING MICROBUSINESSES IN PUBLIC
Margaret Beebe Held*
In June 1994, Wendy and her four children moved to Montgomery
Village in Knoxville, Tennessee from a small town in Michigan.
We were short on money at the time, Wendy recounts, so I
called someplace to find out where we could live for cheap rent.
I was told to call the Knoxville Community Development Corpo-
ration (KCDC), the local Public Housing Authority.1
Wendy called KCDC and found an apartment at a rent she
could afford. But it was not until two months later, when she
attempted to start a home-based child care business, that she
realized she was living in public housing.
I didn't even know, and I felt really stupid. I thought public
housing was this place with high rises, not like here. But I got
this letter from the Tennessee Department of Human Services2
denying me a child care license. It said the reason was because
I live in public housing. Wendy responded by calling Knoxville
Legal Aid Society (KLAS).
KLAS negotiated an addendum to Wendy's lease, allowing her
to operate a child care business on a trial basis.3 Yet as a fully
regulated home child care provider, Wendy now finds herself
facing far greater challenges in her efforts to gain financial
independence. One of her children, who suffers from a debilitat-
Equal Justice Fellow, National Association of Public Interest Law. J.D., University
of Tennessee College of Law, 1995. The author is an attorney with the Knoxville Legal
Aid Society (KLAS).
I Interview with Wendy, public housing resident and home child care provider, in
Knoxville, Tenn. (Aug. 10, 1994). The names of the public housing residents have been
changed to protect their privacy.
2 The Tennessee Department of Human Services (DHS) regulates home child care
providers. In a letter, DHS informed Wendy that she could not operate a day care facility
without the permission of KCDC. Letter from the Tennessee Department of Human
Services to Wendy (June 20, 1994) (on file with author). Later, a DHS representative stated
that, apart from being located in public housing, Wendy's apartment met all of the
requirements for a state registered facility and, with the addition of a fenced-in backyard,
could be state-licensed to care for up to seven children. Interview with Wendy, supra note
3In August 1994, as a law clerk for Knoxville Legal Aid Society, I was assigned to
Wendy's case. At the time, few people in KCDC's administration believed that Wendy had
the initiative to start her own business. Once convinced that she was serious, however,
KCDC not only approved an addendum to Wendy's lease permitting her to start her child
care business, but also agreed to move her to an apartment with a larger backyard and
granted her permission to fence in that yard to enable her to obtain a DHS state license.
Wendy's case prompted KCDC to begin planning ways for other residents to start
home-based businesses, an effort that continues today.

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