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Some Lathrop Kids Get a Bus, But Not All

by Mary C. Piemonte 

Students from CHA's Lathrop Homes who transferred to Fredrick Jahn Elementary School now have a bus to help them trek the long distance there. Photo by Mary C. Piemonte

Students from the Lathrop Homes Chicago public housing complex now attending an elementary school some 10 blocks away recently got a bus their parents were fighting for – but some of their neighbors are still forced to walk.

The bus started taking kindergarten to eighth grade students from Lathrop to Jahn Elementary School a few weeks ago. The students started going to Jahn School after Schneider Elementary School, located inside the Lathrop development, closed this past June. Parents claimed Schneider closed due to a decrease in enrollment, which was caused by the Chicago Housing Authority’s relocation of families from Lathrop.
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Is CHA Holding Vacant Apartments?

by Mary C. Piemonte 

Leah Levinger, coalition coordinator for the Chicago Housing Initiative, talking to reporters about the huge vacancy rate at public housing sites, before the CHA Board meeting at Lathrop Homes on September 20, 2011. Photo by Mary C. Piemonte

Is the Chicago Housing Authority sitting on vacant units that could be going to needy families?

Housing advocates recently took the CHA to task for failing to lease all of its available units. The CHA, however, recently boasted of winning an award from the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development for having a 98 percent occupancy rate for its senior, mixed-income and family housing portfolios.

CHA has more than 9,200 apartments in buildings designated for seniors and over 11,400 units in family developments and scattered sites, and also administers 37,000 Housing Choice Vouchers. But the Chicago Housing Initiative, a coalition of seven community-based organizations working to preserve low-income housing, recently told the CHA Board that the agency is manipulating its numbers to make it seem as if more of these units are leased than actually are occupied.
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New Grocery Stores to Open in Food Deserts

by Newsbrief 

First lady Michelle Obama attended a press conference today, where Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that four grocery chains will open 17 new stores in communities the mayor described as “food deserts,” neighborhoods with a shortage of available fresh food.

White House photo of First Lay Michelle Obama.

Supervalu Inc. plans to open a new Sav-A-Lot store by the end of the year in North Lawndale, and is working on new Sav-A-Lot stores in the Grand Boulevard, Austin, Near West Side, West Pullman, Morgan Park, Calumet Heights, West Englewood and Englewood communities, according to a press release from the mayor’s office. Roundy’s Supermarkets Inc. plans to build three new Mariano’s Fresh Markets stores in Bronzeville, South Chicago and Forest Glenn; Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is slated to build three new stores on the south and southwest sides; and Aldi’s plans to build a store in Roseland.

Marianos’ website photo of fresh fruits and vegatables.

In addition to these stores, Emanuel also announced that one of Chicago’s urban farm networks, Growing Power, has signed an agreement with Walgreens Co. and Aldi’s to produce jobs and economic development at farm sites in the city.

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Ex-Offenders Strive For Better

by Mary C. Piemonte 

William Harper (second from left), vice president of Meyer’s Corporation, poses with ex-offenders he hired, along with CHA Altgeld Gardens Local Advisory Council President Bernadette Williams (third from left), Altgeld Gardens tenant Cheryl Johnson (fourth from right), president of People for Community Recovery, and CHA Senior Central Local Advisory President Martha Marshall (third from right), one of the first CHA tenants who established her own business, after the CHA Board of Commissioners meeting on October 18, 2011. Photo by Mary C. Piemonte

There is a decades old myth that Black men just don’t want to work. But William Harper, a tenant of the Altgeld Gardens public housing development on the far South Side of the city, has many examples that dispel that myth.
Harper is founder and vice president of Meyer’s Corporation, which provides general contracting services such as dry walling, painting, sub-frame, roofing, landscaping and snow removal.

Harper has been in business since January 2008 in the Altgeld public housing community, he told Residents’ Journal after the Oct. 18 CHA Board of Commissioners meeting at the Vivian Gordon Senior Apartments, 4227 S. Oakenwald St. Within that last year alone, Harper said he has hired over 59 African American men ex-offenders but added that he is having a difficult time in getting paid by the CHA’s private Management Company HJ Russell for some completed work, and had to lay off some of his employees.

“I was unable to keep all employed because of the lack of work I am receiving,” he said.
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Special Investigation: CHA Still Wants Kids’ Report Cards

by Mary C. Piemonte 

Myra King, chairman of the tenants’ Central Advisory Council, telling CHA officials that their desire to have residents’ kids reports cards was “unfair and discriminatory” and that the she and other tenants would “refuse” to sign the release documents for CPS to turn them over to the CHA, during the public hearing on proposed amendments to the CHA Admissions and Continued Occupancy Policy, at the Charles A. Hayes Family Investment Center, on March 29, 2010. Photo by Mary C. Piemonte

Tenant leaders are threatening to haul the Chicago Housing Authority into court as the agency continues to demand that parents turn over their kids’ school report cards. Robert Whitfield, the attorney representing resident leaders, is advising tenants that the CHA does not have the right to require them to turn over their report cards or face eviction.

“I find nothing in the CHA Residential Lease which would allow CHA and or CHA property managers to evict a resident who refused to provide school documents,” wrote Whitfield in a Sept. 29 e-mail to CHA General Counsel Scott Ammarell. “CHA now intends to impose yet another requirement that will not apply to any other children anywhere in the City of Chicago. And this is supposed to be consistent with CHA’s often stated goal of seeing that CHA residents are not treated differently from other Chicago citizens?”
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Ida B. Wells Revisited

by Jacqueline Thompson 

The last two original CHA Ida B. Wells public housing buildings being demolished in August 2011. Photo by Jacqueline Thompson

From 2007 until quite recently in 2011, two residential buildings stood at 3718 S. Vincennes Ave. waiting for a rumored Ida B. Wells museum to be developed inside the walls. But this summer, the buildings were demolished, the rumors dispelled.

The first preparation to demolish began in July 2011 by encasing the interior and windows of the two unoccupied buildings in plastic in order to dismantle the walls, stairwells and the floors, and keep irritating dust from taking over the surrounding area.
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THE BIG BAD BOLD BUD BILLIKEN PARADE

by Jacqueline Thompson 

Editor’s Note: As summer rapidly fades into fall, we commissioned Senior Correspondent Jacqueline Thompson to write about one of Chicago’s favorite summer events, the Bud Billiken Parade. Read below and plan to attend the parade next year.

The Big Bold Bad Bud Billiken Parade did it again. Eighty two years young, it is still exciting and still evolving each second Saturday in August in Chicago. For all these many years, the parade has proven to be THE event of the summer. All other shows and programs are planned around this day. The whole city – South Side, West Side and North Side – contributes school marching bands, dazzling floats and municipal partners such as the Fire Department and the Chicago Police Department. This year, of all things, a group of firemen did an expert line dance. They were very well received and applauded.

South Shore Drill Team Steppers at the Bud Biliken Parade in August 2009. RJ archived photo by Mary C. Piemonte

Without a doubt, the children steppers, marchers, twirlers, dancers and float riders always please. Yet this year, there were younger and younger majorettes and twirlers, stepping and stealing the show. There was more evidence of adult involvement in training youngsters to become skilled musicians, marchers and steppers. There were more children in certain group parade favorites: For instance, the South Shore Drill Team had a great many additional prancers. Read more »

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