Girl X Reveals Tragic History

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“Girl X Settles With CHA for $3 million.” That’s the way the headlines appeared in the April 18 daily newspapers and how the story was announced on several television and radio news stations.

The settlement was the result of a lawsuit filed on behalf of 15-year-old Toya Currie. Currie was given the title ‘Girl X’ after her attack at 1121 N Larrabee in CHA’s Cabrini-Green public housing development in January 1997. Currie was nine years old at the time of the attack.

Another, possibly unauthorized Cabrini-Green resident, Patrick Sykes, was convicted of the assault and sentenced to 120 years in prison this past July.

This may be the first lawsuit of this type resulting in such a large settlement against CHA. But we all know this is not the first child to be injured or lose life and liberty in one of America’s largest public housing developments.

I suspect that there are few public housing families in Chicago that have not been touched by violent tragedy made even more devastating when the victim is a child.

Whether or not lawsuits were filed against CHA on behalf of these families is not known. CHA’s response in support of many such families in the past has been to relocate them to another housing development or a scattered site unit.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, “The suit alleged that CHA and its guard services failed to protect Currie when she was attacked by Patrick Sykes in 1997 in the Cabrini- Green housing complex.

It also charged that the housing agency allowed the condition of the premises to deteriorate to such a degree that Sykes was able to get the roach poison he used on Currie from a vacant apartment.

The cost of the settlement will be split among the CHA, Digby’s Detective and Security Agency, and the Apollo Detective Agency, with CHA and Digby’s assuming the bulk.”

Security doors, bars and guards were instituted during the reign of former CHA Chairman Vincent Lane to ensure the safety of residents at a million dollar amount that far exceeds the settlement that Currie will receive after attorneys fees and other costs.

The security measurers instituted by Lane speak to his legacy of grandstanding (doing for show or to impress on lookers) at the expense of residents.

Lane’s attempt to secure public housing was not the first, but it was the worst. And like the other attempts, all that remains of the millions spent is some fence, wood, metal, plexiglass, holes in the lobby walls here and there, and bad memories for residents who were subjected to the worst attempt at secure public housing ever made.

The poorly trained, often rude, forcefully flirtatious, armed security guards were as much a threat to residents as the individuals that they were supposed to protect the residents from. The legacy of Lane, much like a dead body in water, will float to the top of CHA for years to come.

CHA has never had such a haunting former chairman like Lane.

In the same article, “CHA general counsel Gail Nieman said the agreement clears the housing authority of any further liability.” CHA will never be clear of liability, for it has become their legacy.

The same conditions under which Currie was attached still exist today with the exception of the security guard service, which is probably the pivotal factor in the lawsuit.

Lane’s institution of and payment for security services implies that measures have been taken to ensure the safety of residents.

Unfortunately, such was not the case for Currie, who was described as an energetic and articulate nine-year-old who wanted to be a dancer.

Currie’s legacy is one of survival. Now, she wants to be a writer when she grows up, to tell her story.

“Life is harder now, ” she said in an interview.

Currie will receive approximately $357,690 of the $3 million after costs. But CHA’s $2 million portion of the settlement must be approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development before Currie will receive any cash.

Perhaps the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development should be sued for allowing Lane and other former chairmen and CHA to fail.

For decades, hundreds of millions of dollars a year, every year, were poured into CHA with nothing to show for it. Enough money to have re-built public housing over and over again. And no one took responsibility or was held accountable for the waste of billions of dollars.

Several years ago, I inquired in to the ownership of the Chicago Housing Authority. I was told that no one owned it. It was a free-standing entity (unit).

The federal government did not own it. The City of Chicago did not own it. The entity could not be sold.

Perhaps that’s the reason that no one took ownership or accountability. However, during the beginning stages of CHA’s redevelopment plan, I learned that the developments had to be offered to residents first and that residents had to participate fully in the redevelopment process before any plan could take place.

Unbelievably, especially to CHA and HUD officials, we fought to take ownership in our portion of Cabrini-Green. We won the right to assume responsibility. And our public housing has improved.

Perhaps if we had ownership then, Currie would be dancing right now.

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