Eathen Hooks, a large, muscular man, has been cutting hair in his small barber shop in the 600 block of H Street NE since 1956. Still, after all those years of hard work, he has not been able to buy the small building where his shop is located. His voice rises and quivers with rage as he talks about this.
"They (the banks) won't let an individual person have a loan," he said, speaking while cutting an old man's hair. "If I could get the type of loan I want, I could (have bought) this place and (fixed) it up. Five years ago it was for sale. I needed $4,000 at the time. Now the man won't sell it. People said money was tight then, I couldn't get it. I lost my opportunity then. It ain't fair, but what can you do about it?"
He paused to take up an eletric razor.
"You put your little piece of change in these banks around here, but when you need a loan you can't get one. These banks do not do anything for the community. If you don't have substantial capital, they won't even talk to you. They'll let you have $13,000 or $14,000 to buy a car, but you can't get situated to go into business. My little $15 or $30 deposit, that's what makes the bank, but all (us) little poor people can't get any consideration (in return)."
The disgust in Hooks' voice seemed to increased as he talked about city officials. He has been to the many neighborhood meetings over the years to listen to all their presentations, their plans. Finally, he said, he stopped going.
"They (officials) usually talk the same things at all the meetings. They talk around circles rather than getting to the point of what really needs to be done on H Street. Since 1968 there hasn't been any improvement around here as far (as I can see). You'd think that the government would take an interest in the welfare of the people, but after the politicians get (elected), they turn their backs on the people. Here you have a community that's been like this since 1968, but yet they can go across the sea and bring up Germany in 10 years (through the Marshall Plan following World War II) . . ."
Hooks pointed at vacant areas on the other side of the street, areas where families used to live in row houses, he said. The houses were torn down but nothing was ever put in their place - resulting in a net loss of customers for Hooks' business people on the street.
According to Stephen Johnson, community affairs officer for the city's Department of Housing and Community Development, 281 households were relocated out of the H Street area following the 1968 riots. Thirty-one of these received rehabilitation loans that enabled them to move back in, but the net loss in customers was still high. The large housing projects at the eastern end of the H Street corridor will bring more people into the area, but they may be too faraway to boost Hooks' business in the 600 block.
"These buildings need to be built up," said Hooks, pointing with his electric razor across the street, "But they (thr government) make it so impossible to apply for (a government-supported loan) because of the rigamarole they put you through to get it. If they were really interested in people building their business up, they wouldn't make it so impossible.