CHA Puts Resident In Storage

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Former Robert Taylor Homes resident Lobeta Holt became another homeless statistic this fall despite promises from the Chicago Housing Authority that residents would have a roof over their heads during the Plan for Transformation Holt is a 30-year-old, disabled mother of six who has paperwork to prove she is lease-compliant. But on Oct. 18, CHA officials moved Holt out of Robert Taylor Homes, placed her belongings in storage and told her to check back with them periodically for a replacement unit. She and her children are sleeping in a relative’s home currently.

“They got me out here homeless,” Holt said somberly at a recent protest over the closure of another low-income building near Robert Taylor. The CHA’s ongoing $1.6 billion, 10-year “Plan for Transformation” will reduce the total number of public housing units in CHA’s current stock and build mixed-income communities in the place of the current developments.

CHA officials have promised repeatedly that all residents who are found to be ‘lease-compliant’ will have replacement units – in another public housing development or using a Housing Choice Voucher – during redevelopment. But Holt, who has severe asthma, is anxious to get her life out of storage and find a new home for her and her children.

A Disabled Resident’s Ordeal
Holt once lived at 4555 S. Federal St. and was certified as a lease-compliant resident. When CHA started relocating residents in that building this fall, Holt chose to use a Housing Choice Voucher. But CHA officials told her that she was denied the voucher because of a drug charge against her 14-year-old son – even though that drug charge had been dropped.

Holt said her son was arrested on a drug charge shortly after CHA officials announced that 4555 S. Federal would be closing. But the case against her son was dismissed and CHA waived the option to evict Holt under the One Strike policy. One Strike allows public housing authorities to evict a leaseholder for any drug-related or hard-core crime, or allegation of a crime, committed by the leaseholder, family member or friend of the leaseholder, on or off the housing authority’s premises.

Holt said she was informed of the One Strike waiver well before the building closed on Oct. 18. Holt said she thinks she would have had her enough time to find a unit in the private sector using a Housing Choice Voucher. But CHA denied her the voucher.

CHA officials next tried to find another public housing unit for Holt. They were unable to find an appropriate unit for her and her family, she said. “Kari Hill, from CHA’s Relocation Department, told me that I had a place in Altgeld Gardens, which wasn’t my choice of housing. I told her that I could not go out there because of the waste that is out there, and my health,” said Holt, who breaths through a tube in her neck connected to an oxygen tank.

“She said I had no other choice but Ickes (Homes). I told her I couldn’t go there because of my teenage boys. You know how the gangs are. You don’t have to be in a gang but they will assume that you are.” Holt told RJ that on Oct. 18, CHA stored her family’s belongings and relocation officials told her to move in with a relative since she didn’t choose to move into the areas that CHA picked. Holt said the relocation specialists also instructed her to check in with them periodically for housing assistance.

“I’ve got it in writing where they said, ‘Go stay with a relative’ until they find me somewhere to stay,” she declared. “Henrietta Hawkins and Kari Hill told me to keep checking with them. But they don’t call me back. I called them all last week (Oct. 28). I told them, ‘I am homeless. I need a place. I can’t stay here forever,'” Holt declared.
Holt and her six children currently live with her mother in the 7900 block of South Paxton Avenue.

CHA Explains
CHA CEO Terry Peterson has often said that every lease-compliant resident would have a place to live during redevelopment. CHA spokesperson Kathryn Greenberg tried to explain Holt’s situation in an early November interview. “Holt is not homeless, in the sense that she chose to live with her mother versus relocating into Altgeld or Ickes,” she said.
Greenberg couldn’t explain why Holt was denied the temporary Housing Choice Voucher since the One Strike case against her had been dismissed.

“Ms. Holt’s information is correct. Her (One Strike) case has been dropped. I think that the case lagged and therefore was dropped. Because of the property management office process being very slow,” Greenberg said. “I honestly don’t know enough about the details about her case. I really shouldn’t even be getting into that with you because that’s really between her and her relocation manager.”

Greenberg said CHA only stores belongings for families who choose to relocate temporarily in “non-subsidized housing,” meaning those who move with a relative or into a private market rental unit versus another CHA public housing unit or a private unit using a housing voucher. These residents have the right to return to the mixed-income communities that CHA plans to build in place of the current developments. Greenberg said CHA plans to continue to store residents’ belongings for up to a year until redevelopment of all of its properties.

Greenberg didn’t have the total numbers of residents whose belongings they have stored since relocation began. But she said that so far this year, CHA placed the belongings of up to 15 families in storage.

A Public Plea
Holt’s aunt reported her situation to CHA chief of Operations Dwain Bailey during the Tenant Services meeting on Oct. 9. At the following month’s Tenant Services meeting, Bailey reported that he tried to reach a tenant in a situation similar to Holt’s to refer her to a Service Connector agency. But Bailey said that he did not know the name of the woman seeking assistance.

“There was a young lady who appeared before us – we don’t have her name – but she has called my office, though. She said she had several children and that she was homeless, and we indicated to her that we would try to connect her with the social service agency. I’ve returned her call several times but I’ve been unable to contact her,” he said.

RJ staff who were in attendance at the Oct. 9 meeting said Bailey’s description matched that of Holt, who had spoken to CHA officials on that day. RJ staff said that Bailey had referred Holt to his assistant and promised to help her then and there.

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