CHA and Latinos: Interview with Joe Shuldiner

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From a recent interview with Joseph Shuldiner, executive director of the Chicago Housing Authority:

Question: Mr. Shuldiner, Why has CHA excluded Latinos from the agency?

Answer: Of course when you look at the upper management I think you’re wrong since [the takeover] we had Ana Vargas, who has since left [as Deputy Executive Director of Finance and Administration], Andy Rodriguez, who is the head of Redevelopment, and Raphael Leon, who is president of Chicago Housing Metropolitan Corporation. So when 8 upper management people met, 3 of them were Latinos, which is a much higher percentage than the Hispanic population in public housing in Chicago. So you know I think the issue of service of course is a different one. I think the core of Latinos and combinations of these people have not been reached-out to and not been served by public housing. So this wrong over the years has made them very low users of public housing.

As you know, there is a lawsuit about that by Latinos United. And we basically, as a result of the lawsuit, are working with a variety of Latino groups to do more outreach.

With all the stuff we send to the residents, we now translate it into Spanish for residents. I know there is a lot of things to be done but I think we are trying to reach out.

I can’t speak about the board that was used before the executive advisory committee, which includes a Latino. We also have to work to see more improvement and success in the Section 8 program. And I think that is also more by desire since I think Latinos are more interested in Section 8 than public housing itself.

Question: Does this have something to do with the Latinos United suing the CHA?

Answer: Well, the suit was already here when we got here. So we never had the chance to show what we would have done without the lawsuit.

Question: I know that you have 104,000 applications back. You guys did a wonderful job with so many applications how many have you sent out by now?

Answer: 104,000 applications were submitted [for the re-opening of the Section 8 waiting list] and 82,000 were found to be complete. And the computer randomly selected 35,000. So only 35,000 of those families are on the waiting list. The rest are not and at this time the first 1,000 are being notified to come in.

I don’t know exactly how many can participate later or a couple of months from now. But we now understand that apart from that there is now a separated remedial waiting list for Latinos. So some of the Latino organizations are doing a separate outreach to Latino communities and the Latinos that potentially were excluded from applying in the past. That list is open until the end of the year. That’s a fair window of 6 months that goes until the end of the year. So for Latino families that meet certain criteria, they can continue to apply and be part of a remedial list.

Question: Do you think that scattered sites and Section 8 should have their own board?

Answer: Section 8 do in some sense because generally the C.H.A.C. is their own organization, so we don’t try to tell them how to do it. In the [Northeast scattered sites] their presidents are not just actually presidents of their development, they are presidents of the Lathrop area. So if you are president of Lathrop, that also includes scattered sites of that area, and to me if the C.A.C decided they wanted representation separately, that’s exactly what they can do.

Some changes are a little more difficult [such as Section 8] because the people are nowhere near each other. They don’t necessarily have a lot in common; they have different housing. You know [Section 8] is not owned by us. It will be of much greater difficulty to organize CHA scattered sites or Section 8 residents because they’re all over the place. Sometimes you go to a development and there is a development so you say “Let’s have an election.” There are 17,000 families all over Chicago [in Section 8]. If someone wanted to organize them, they could have their own organization.

There are other organizations that include both. The New Jersey state organization basically exists for public assisted housing but they also actually represent people in Section 8. The issue again is how you outreach to people, because they’re not conveniently located in developments. It’s not like you go to Taylor and you have 3,500 families. You go to this block and you don’t even know who the Section 8 people are and its not clear to me how much of this information we are supposed to make public. What we have to do is we have to send notices to the residents saying here is the person who wants to organize and the tenant has to make contact with them. We will not normally give the name and the addresses within the program because of privacy issues.

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