Positive Residents of the CHA

by Bobby Watkins 

A 28-year resident of Stateway Gardens, Francine is long overdue to get her flowers because she is always there when help is needed. She wears many hats, be it with her job as senior program adviser for the resident initiatives department of the Chicago Housing Authority or as Local Advisory Council president, Tenant Patrol member, her involvement in the summer food program and with various boards (including We The People Media), she is truly your super woman. And so much more because she is a wife and mother as well.

But when does she sleep? One thing can be said of Francine – she is one of those people who likes helping others and truly does it from her heart. Many people meet her for the first time, notice that she is quick to voice her opinion, and say, “Ooh, she is mean.” But after getting to know her, you’ll find out that’s what she has to do to keep you straight on the job.

Remember the heat wave a few years ago? Who was out knocking on doors bright and early but Francine, checking to make sure our seniors were all right. As Local Advisory Council president, the fight never ends to make sure her residents are placed and get everything they have coming to them during this transformation and relocation process.

Just think, she even ran for alderman. With her being as vocal as she is, I think she would have made a good one. But it would have been a big loss for the CHA and the residents if she would have won. I just wish we had more like her, even with her bark. Francine, you truly are a mentor and role model to many. I personally learned a lot from Francine about dealing with people, especially residents who need help and who I really wanted to help.

Many of these residents go that extra mile but I just can’t seem to get them the help they need. Francine taught me not to give up the fight. When I was going through some rough times, it was Francine’s advice that made me come back and start doing what I like doing most – working with and helping people.

She let me know not to let talk keep me down and to keep doing the work that I like doing. If it had not been for those words, I would not be at the Residents’ Journal or volunteering in Lathrop again. I know many residents and others feel the same way I do. With God’s help, Francine will keep on with the great work. She is truly one in a million.
Thanks, Francine.

Arthur Young
Arthur Young is a former 10-year resident of Stateway Gardens. Arthur attended Wendell Phillips Upper Grade Center and Dunbar High School and later attended Kennedy King College. He is now working at the Abraham Lincoln Centre as a support counselor for the Bridge to Work program, where he also serves as a substance abuse counselor and recruiter for Feet on the Street.

Arthur’s advice to young people is to learn lessons from experience, accept good advice and, like a student who learns the lesson well, you won’t have to repeat the same lesson. Arthur at 54 is back in school attending Northeastern University and is still full of dreams and goals, and this is proof that it’s never too late. In Stateway Gardens, after talking with Francine Washington in 1999, he joined the Bridge to Work program and has been welcoming Stateway Gardens residents ever since.

Personally, Arthur feels this has given him an opportunity “to bring back positive influence to make up for some of the negatives of my youth. This support system introduces new designs for living. People who share experiences provide answers for raising men and women from dust to scholars to let all be the best they can.” Arthur shares these views with many people, whether they are residents of CHA or men and women at one of Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous’ fellowship meetings.

Arthur is an escort for other human beings, walking through the clean air sober, facing the fear of coping with living life on life’s terms. Thank you, Arthur. May these words of wisdom help many of our down and out.

Ruby Mann
Ruby Mann has been a resident in Lathrop Homes for the past 15 years and has always worked hard in the development, especially when it comes to working and helping with our youth in the community as well as at Schneider School, where she is now the local school council president. She also serves as an outreach worker for the DePaul Urban Systems of Care located in the Church of the Good News. Ruby started the first tots program at the Daniel A. Cotter Boys and Girls Club.

She has always volunteered to feed the homeless as well as the residents of Lathrop at our annual Thanksgiving dinner at the club in Lathrop. She also is a mom to 9-year-old Mary Ann. Keep up the good work, for our youth need all the help they can get to make this a better place for the future.

Sonya Berberena
Sonya is also a resident of Lathrop Homes. This young lady has done a remarkable turnaround. Sonny, as she is called, has always been a person who kept a smile and was easy to talk with. But she was “laid back,” as we say. Now she is up every morning, out there to help the residents of Lathrop as a community outreach worker while also attending school. She is a single mom – the mother of 4 children. She also volunteers at the Cotter Club and at many other places as she may be needed in or out of the development.

Farewell to Le Roy Watkins Day and 4555 S. Federal
On Sept. 1, residents celebrated what probably was the last of any kind of celebration for 4555 S. Federal St., a high-rise in the Robert Taylor Homes. The event was very nice.
There were residents former as well as those still remaining in the building at 4555 South Federal, which was due to close Sept. 30. These residents wanted to say farewell in their own way to memories that will never be forgotten. There were good times as well as bad. But for so many, the good outweighed the bad. The reunion of 4555′s residents made us go down memory lane and talk about these memories. We saw just how much CHA has changed.

There was talk of how in 1962, when this building first opened, it was like the Jeffersons moving to the East Side. There was no gang activity at the time and it stayed that way for a while. Everybody was like family, looking out for one another, sharing with each other. Then, there were even older men who you could go to for advice. There were drugs but not being sold right out in the open like they are now. The hallways and ramps were clean.

There was green grass. There was a social center or you had other choices: You could be part of the little league teams. There was softball for both young men and women. There were even Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, plus 4H programs and drama at the fieldhouse. There was just so much available.

Not that CHA hasn’t had good programs in later years. It’s that the young people don’t take advantage of them like they did then. These youngsters now seem like they would rather sell drugs or commit robberies, even with programs like midnight basketball and the Youth Can Cook, Mama Said and so many more that were sponsored by CHA. ‘

It seems now that young people would rather turn to the street after becoming a certain age. What has caused such a big change with our youth? One of the first families to move in 4555 said it was because youth today are followers and don’t have people to look up to like they did back then.

Values are not the same anymore. Then, a child was a child and adults were respected. Not just by your own children but others in the development as well. Now those days will be memories. For with the wrecking ball coming for 4555, we don’t know if there will be any more Le Roy Watkins days or 4555 reunions. So let’s be thankful for the good old days. Good bye, ’55.

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