Cabrini-Green: Changes and Relocation

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Each morning when they awake, the families remaining in 500 and 502 W.Oak St., two nineteen story high-rises in the Cabrini Green Public Housing Development, find themselves hanging in an uncertain balance between relocation and homelessness.

While some families have been relocated to other apartments in the development and others offered Section 8 Certificates, the remaining families – after numerous meetings with numerous people – are still unclear on what their fate will be.

One resident at 500 W. Oak St. who wants to remain anonymous had this to say:

“500 and 502 are included in the It’s Time For A Change Resident Management Organization. Residents believed that after we started the resident management process that the buildings would be protected from being closed and demolished.

“But the truth is that you are never out from being under CHA. The first step in the resident management process is the last.

“According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the buildings have to be offered to residents first before demolition.”

Carrie Williams, a long time resident of 502 W. Oak St., said, “The residents have to move in January 1998. CHA is offering to place residents in other buildings in Cabrini and some will get Section 8 Certificates but none have received any written notification from the Authority about the building closings or being relocated.

“We got the information at a meeting at the Lower North Center. We were also told about some ‘scattered site housing.’ Why is it that we have to move in the winter time?”

CHA announced plans to close 500 and 502 W. Oak in late November after an outbreak of random gunfire that posed a safety threat to the Jenner Elementary School across the street. On Oct. 13, 1992, 7-year-old Dantrell Davis was hit by gunfire as he tried to cross the street from 502 W. Oak to Jenner School.

Marshall Ann Williams, another long time resident of 502 W. Oak St., attended a meeting at Jenner School where Paul Vallas, chief executive officer of the Chicago Board of Education, along with employees of the Chicago Housing Authority decided to keep Jenner Elementary School open and close 500 and 502 W. Oak St. The meeting was prompted by an incident where shots fired from the buildings disrupted classes, threatening the safety of students.

Many residents of 500 and 502 W. Oak St. feel that their Local Advisory Council representatives are not helping the residents.

Williams said, “The residents don’t even know their rights and no one is trying to help us at this time.”

But as always, there are two sides to every story. The fear and anxiety of the residents of 500 and 502 W. Oak St. were experienced by the residents of 1150 and 1160 N. Sedgwick two years ago.

Police determined that the bullet which killed Dantrell Davis came from the building at 1157-1159 N. Cleveland and the residents were soon moved out. Many of them were relocated to 1150-1160 N. Sedgwick St. Later, residents of 1150-1160 N. Sedgwick were relocated to other apartments in the development and housing complexes in the surrounding area.

Many of the residents relocated from 1150 and 1160 N. Sedgwick St. today are pleased with what resulted for their families from the buildings being closed.

A resident relocated to the Southeast Side of Chicago said that she loves her new apartment and is happy to be there. Betty Minor, a resident relocated from 1157 N. Cleveland to 1150 N. Sedgwick, has now relocated to another state. I had an opportunity to speak with her while she was in the development visiting relatives. I asked Betty if she was satisfied with the move.

Betty said, “I am happy with my new place. It’s nice.”

I asked Betty if she ever thinks about coming back to Chicago. She said, “No, but I miss my family and friends who still live here.”

I am sure that there are residents that have not fared well as a result of being relocated due to the closing of buildings in Cabrini. But after listening to some of the residents who have left Cabrini and seeing how well they are doing, the beauty of it all makes me wonder if I am even doing the best thing for my family by trying to stay here, like many of the families in 1150-1160 N. Sedgwick did then and the families in 500 and 502 W. Oak St. are now. When all you know is all you know, how do you know what better can be?

Jenner Elementary School

Located at 1009 N. Cleveland, Jenner Elementary School serves over 500 students.

Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas, in a Nov. 19, 1997, press release, expressed concerns for students’ safety after numerous incidents of gunfire near the school. At one point, Vallas announced plans to relocate students to Mulligan School, 1900 N. Sheffield Ave. But those plans were reversed when the Chicago Housing Authority decided to close 500 and 502 W. Oak St. Students will remain at Jenner since various agencies, community organizations and a coalition of area churches and ministers plan to establish parent patrols, provide anti-violence initiatives, a homework center and to expand the youth programs. They also plan to establish a 24-hour crisis hotline.

The alliance, in conjunction with Jenner’s Parent Patrol and Cabrini-Green’s Tenant Patrol, is joining forces to help monitor Cabrini-Green during and after school hours. This plan is designed to make Jenner a safe zone for the children.

Within the next two years, Jenner will be vacated and a new facility will be built as a part of the Chicago Public School’s aggressive capital improvement program. The Chicago School Board is scheduled to begin breaking ground for the new school in the spring. The location site for the new school will be near its current location.

Closing Remarks

America embraces other countries throughout the world with aid to feed the needy, to protect other countries under siege by uncivilized attacks around the world. So why the inhuman attack on the low- and very-low income residents of public housing? Something is very wrong with this picture. Might I suggest that the next time before President Clinton, Congress and the Senate send aid to other countries, the rapid changes in laws should always take care of Home Base first. Take nothing for granted because public housing residents are American citizens and we also vote.

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