CHA’s Safe Harbor Gets Bigger

by Mary C. Piemonte 

In January and February, the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) Board approved important changes to its work rules for tenants and to the Plan for Transformation.

The Work Requirement Policy Changes
At a special CHA Board meeting at the agency’s downtown headquarters on Jan. 14, directors approved changes to the work requirement policy for its residents. CHA clarified which residents can take advantage of ‘Safe Harbor,’ the policy which allows residents under certain circumstances to be exempt from the rules which state they have work or be in an educational program. First, CHA decided that a person does not have to meet the work rules if they are caring for “a victim of violence, including but not limited to domestic violence, sexual violence, dating violence and stalking.” CHA also lengthened the amount of time that volunteer or community service hours can count towards 50 percent of the requirement for hours they must work or be in an educational program. In the past, these volunteer activities could count for two years. Now they count for three years. The CHA also removed the work requirement for “the primary caretaker of a child(ren) under age 13 in households with two or more adults; One adult working exempts one other adult from work to care for a child(ren) under age 13.”

The Residents’ Attorney Comments
Immediately following the January board hearing, Robert Whitfield — one of the attorneys for the Central Advisory Council (CAC), the elected resident leadership for family and senior public housing — told Residents’ Journal that the had no major problems with the work rule changes. Whitfield said he was concerned that there was no provision in the Safe Harbor policy for mothers who have trouble getting child care. “We do have some slight concerns,” Whitfield said. “But [CHA] indicated that they would sit down with us and talk to us about. It’s mainly about the Safe Harbor. We just want to make sure that the young mothers who have a problem getting child care. We don’t want that extra worry about whether they are going to be evicted.” Whitfield added that CHA was showing a “great willingness to sit down and negotiate” about that concern. Also, at CHA’s public board meeting on Feb. 17 at the 18th District Police Station in the Cabrini Green area, the agency decided to apply for 1,121 vouchers to replace units which already have been demolished.

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