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The New Resident Leadership

by Ethan Michaeli, Publisher 

The Central Advisory Council, the elected leadership of the residents of the Chicago Housing Authority, recently announced the result of its recent election. Pictured here are the following: Francine Washington (bottom right corner, identifications are from right), president of the Washington Park Local Advisory Council and chairman of the Central Advisory Council; Perry Casey, president of the Senior North LAC; Mildred Pagan (off camera), president of the Lathrop LAC; Charmeita Witherspoon (off camera), president of the Lawndale Gardens LAC; Shashak Levi (off camera), president at large of the Robert Taylor ‘B’ LAC; Carole Steele, president of the Cabrini-Green LAC and vice chair of the CAC; Natalie Saffold, president at large of the Leclaire Courts LAC; Charnae Harmon, president of the Henry Horner Homes LAC; Rosemary Coleman, president of the Senior Central LAC; Pauline Wesley, president of the Senior South LAC; Myra King, president of the Trumbull-Lowden LAC; and Beatrice Harris, president of the Wentworth Gardens LAC.

Not pictured: Carol Wallace, president of the Dearborn Homes LAC; Bernadette Williams, president of the Altgeld Gardens LAC; Maria Sopena, president of the Northeast Scattered Site LAC; Annie Davis, president of the ABLA LAC; Maner Jean Wiley, president of the Hilliard Homes LAC; Claudice Ware, president at large of the Ida B. Wells LAC; Mary Baldwin, president at large of the Rockwell Gardens LAC; Mildred Dennis, president at large of the Robert Taylor ‘B’ LAC.

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CHA Chiefs Come and Go as Plan Stalls

by Mary C. Piemonte 

 

New CHA CEO Michael Merchant at a Nov. 19 CHA Board meeting in the ABLA Homes public housing development. Photo by Mary C. Piemonte.

Michael Merchant, previously the city’s buildings commissioner, recently became the fifth CHA CEO since the inception of the Plan for Transformation, a multi-billion dollar effort to overhaul and redevelop family and senior public housing stock into mixed-income communities that began in 2000 and is now projected to conclude in 2015.

Merchant told RJ after the Nov. 19 CHA Board meeting at the Fosco Park Field house in the ABLA public housing complex that he was confident he would complete the Plan during his tenure.

“I have every intention of being here to finish out the Plan,” Merchant said. “With respect to the fact that there has been turnover in this position, there’s still consistency within the staff, consistency with what the mission is, and what the goal is. Our goal is to make sure that we have vibrant communities and safe and affordable housing. So, I’m here to push full forward.”

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Remembering ABLA Homes’ Deverra Beverly

by Mary C. Piemonte 

Deverra Beverly, longtime president of the ABLA Homes public housing development. Photo courtesy of the National Public Housing Museum.

Deverra Beverly, a Chicago Housing Authority commissioner and long-time president of the resident council at the ABLA Homes public housing development on the West Side, died November 9, 2013.

CHA Officials Honor Statement about Beverly

Beverly was appointed to the CHA Board of Commissioners by former Mayor Richard M. Daley on July 22, 2009.

A life-long public servant, she held numerous resident leadership positions prior to her appointment, including president of ABLA Homes’ Local Advisory Council, vice chair of the Central Advisory Council from 2002 to 2008, interim CAC chair from 2008 to 2009, and treasurer in 2009.

In an email to Residents’ Journal, a CHA press statement recalled that Beverly also worked for the City’s Department of Human Services for 30 years and received “countless awards in recognition of her efforts to improve the quality of life in public housing.”

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Another CHA Chief Bows Out

by Mary C. Piemonte 

CHA CEO Charles Woodyard listening to residents’ comments at a CHA Tenant Services meeting on August 8, 2012. Photo by Mary C. Piemonte.

For the second time in two years, a Chicago Housing Authority chief announced his resignation even as the agency’s multi-billion dollar plan to redevelop its family and senior public housing remains incomplete.

In June 2011, a month after Mayor Rahm Emanuel was inaugurated into office, Lewis Jordan resigned from his 4-year tenure as CHA chief while city officials investigated his and others’ alleged misuse of CHA credit cards to purchase dinners at expensive restaurants and pay for red light tickets, among other items. 

Now Charles Woodyard, former CEO of the Charlotte Housing Authority in North Carolina, who was appointed CHA chief by Emanuel in September 2011 to replace Jordan, is calling it quits as relocated residents continue to wait to return to replacement housing in mixed-income communities.

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Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor visits Chicago

by Mary C. Piemonte 

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor talks to a young fan at a recent book signing and lecture at the Harold Washington Library. Photo by Mary C. Piemonte.

U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor declares proudly that she has a lot in common with poor people, including public housing tenants. She should know, since she grew up in a South Bronx public housing project “in abject poverty struggling with an illness, in a dysfunctional family.”
Sotomayor, who became an instant American icon after her appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Barack Obama in May 2009, shared more about her early life there during a recent visit to Chicago promoting her memoir, “My Beloved World.”
The book covers her transition from her early life growing up in New York City to becoming a judge on the country’s highest federal bench. Early life in public housing was not easy, she said to the audience in the jam-packed auditorium at the downtown Harold Washington Library last month. However, her role models, including her mother, and her perseverance in the face of obstacles to her life’s goals allowed her to gain success and become the first Latina and third woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Growing up a juvenile diabetic with an alcoholic father, in an era where things like that were kept hidden, where poverty was something that was perceived as shameful, where being a Latina in situations where I had been made to feel uncomfortable,” was very hard, Sotomayor said.

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Honoring Dr. King’s Legacy

by Mary C. Piemonte 

Activist and photographer Bernard Kleina (left) talks to Chicago Freedom School graduate Richard Wilson at a recent commemoration for Dr. Martin Luther King. Photo by Mary C. Piemonte.

People around the city recently celebrated the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. while organizing to continue the fight for social justice.

The Chicago Freedom School, a non-profit organization which trains people at all ages in social justice organizing techniques, hosted an “intergenerational” program to honor Dr. King’s activism in Chicago at Grace Place, 637 S. Dearborn St., several weeks ago.

In the first half of their 3-hour program, an intergenerational roster of the organizations involved talked to the audience about how Dr. King “brought organizing, marches and political change to the South and beyond.” In this city, the event organizers recalled that King “mobilized mass marches on the Southwest side, lived and shared community with residents on the West Side, and fought for fair housing justice for all of Chicago.”

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We The People Media ED on “Chicago Newsroom”

by Ethan Michaeli, Publisher 

We The People Media Executive Director Ethan Michaeli was recently featured on an episode of “Chicago Newsroom,” hosted by Ken Davis. Ethan appeared along with Alden Loury from the Better Government Association, discussing a wide range of issues, from violence affecting young people in the city to gun control to local politics. Click here to watch the episode: http://chicagonewsroom.org/2013/02/22/cn-february-21-2013/

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Tenants Protest CHA’s Plans for Lathrop

by Mary C. Piemonte 

A protestor in the Lathrop Homes objects to all three redevelopment ideas proposed by the Chicago Housing Authority Nov. 15. Photo by Mary C. Piemonte.

Tenants and their advocates protested the Chicago Housing Authority’s redevelopment plans for the Lathrop Homes public housing site on the North Side, which is slated for demolition and replacement by a mixed-income community consisting of an array of for-sale, affordable rental and public housing apartments.
On Nov. 15, CHA held an open house inside the New Life Community Church, 2958 N. Damen Ave., to present three concepts for the Lathrop redevelopment and pose questions to Lathrop Community Partners, the development team selected to help revitalize the 32-acre public housing site that was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2012.
But outside the church, members of the Lathrop Leadership Team – composed of tenants and their advocates – declared that developer’s plans “three dense scenarios, and one destructive idea.” Some of the protestors held signs ridiculing the three concepts; one sign featured a picture of the Three Stooges television characters, to whom the three concepts were compared.

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CAC Releases Vision for the Future

by Ethan Michaeli, Publisher 

September 12, 2012 -Elected leaders of Chicago’s public housing families today issued the 2012 Strategies and Recommendations Report, a comprehensive vision for the future that would see the city provide quality housing to many more low-income families who need it in these tough economic times.

Twelve years after the Plan for Transformation for the Chicago Housing Authority was launched by Mayor Richard M. Daley, much work remains to be done. All of the city’s public housing high-rises for families have been demolished and a small number of mixed-finance communities have been built, but large tracts of land across the South and West sides remain vacant, awaiting a new vision that will deal with the realities of the current housing market. CHA remains the landlord, meanwhile, for more than 130,000 people in low-rise family developments, senior citizen high-rises and private apartments rented through the Housing Choice Voucher program.

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CHA Opens Wait List in Lincoln Square

by Mary C. Piemonte 

 

Beginning today, residents of the Lincoln Square neighborhood on the North Side can apply to get into a small number of the Chicago Housing Authority’s two, three and four-bedroom units in the area. CHA will accept applications until July 20.

Those who want to apply should go to CHA’s North East Scattered Sites Satellite Office, the garden unit at 2117 W. Giddings St. from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, July 7, and Saturday, July 14. Some of the public housing units will be accessible for people with disabilities.

You must be 18 years of age or older at the time the application is submitted and you must reside in Lincoln Square all through the application process. A picture ID is required along with two documents that prove your address, according to the CHA press release today. You must qualify to get a two-, three- or four-bedroom public housing unit under federal guidelines. After the application period ends July 20, the CHA will have an electronic lottery to determine each registrant’s place on the Wait List.

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