Happy 60th, Lathrop Homes

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Three score equals 60. How that adds to years of wear and tear makes one feel very old. But age is something to be proud of, especially when you have outlived old friends and have made new friends. Sixty shows integrity.

I’m not talking about myself, thank you. I’m talking about the Lathrop Homes development and the Chicago Housing Authority, which both turned 60 years old this year.

Most reporters and writers who would do a chronological (let’s count the years) story and would find this as an opportunity to teach you a history lesson. Not this writer! I can easily lead you on a ‘follow the yellow-brick road’ trip through the entire history of CHA’s 60 years while doing a piece on the 60 years of Lathrop Homes. I can, as well, say that knowing your past can help one make good plans for the future.

But sometimes the lessons of the past don’t provide answers to issues of the day. Most of the time, we have to learn from our own mistakes.

Instead of a history of buildings, I want to write about a history of an attitude – what we today call the ‘Project Mentality.’

During the construction of Lathrop Homes, the builders and the first residents had a certain idea of what they thought they were creating. They built a low-rise community to house low-income people.

Over the years, the residents added their own institutions. Lathrop residents started their own neighborhood church out of the apartments of tenants that grew into its own building. They started a Boys and Girls Club that grew out of the basements of Lathrop into its own building. These creations show that residents added their ideas to what they felt CHA should have provided in building these communities.

But the residents of Lathrop and CHA also built something together: a ‘Project Mentality.’ The project mentality, of course, exists in every CHA development and it has as many different meanings as there are CHA residents.

Project mentality can be defined in terms of being proud of your home or apartment or your new neighborhood. It can be good luck or bad luck in the way of surviving there. It could be anything and anywhere it takes to living and staying in a CHA development. In a neighborhood where there is a majority of one ethnicity (namely Black), it could mean life or death. In the mixed neighborhoods, it could mean whose turf you’re on and what it is you are limited to do in that area.

Some residents have shown the best side of the project mentality. Mrs. Artensa Randolph, who helped organize individual developments’ resident organizations into a city-wide group of concerned residents, showed the world that residents know what’s best for their own neighborhoods. Mrs. Randolph proved what a positive project mentality can do.

Part of the project mentality is the desire to become self-sufficient. For over 30 of its 60 years, Lathrop has been trying to become self-sufficient. As a community, Lathrop Homes has built many things for our residents. But Lathrop is still owned by CHA, not the residents.

With welfare reform and the demolition of high-rise developments, CHA seems like it is now trying to eradicate the project mentality. Amazing where 60 years can put you as a landlord. After all, the project mentality is something that CHA helped to build. But in 1937, public housing officials thought of answering one social problem by housing low-income people. They never thought that residents could one day run public housing themselves. Self-sufficiency is also an idea that is part of the project mentality.

Boy! Sixty years old and still going strong. Should we have to pay the price of the CHA face-lift? Or send the whole public housing idea out to pasture? I feel that we should see what the project mentality has to offer us in the years to come. Self-sufficiency, after all, is the best part of project mentality.

If you have comments on this article or just to offer input to what you think “Project Mentality” is, just write me or fax or e-mail me at RJ.

Birthday Greetings

Happy Birthday Chicago Housing Authority and Happy Birthday Lathrop Homes. 60 Years and Still Growing! And while I’m in the spirit of well wishing, Happy Birthday Residents’ Journal. To all the residents of CHA that participated in the making and distributing RJ, congratulations on our first award-winning year. From the plaque displayed in Ed Moses’ office, I’d say we’re a winner on a fast track to becoming a resident-owned business.

Lathrop Update

In an impressive show of toast mastering, Hakimah Qualls, 14, who is active at the local Boys and Girls Club, recently presented the new key to the club to Dan Cotter of the True Value Hardware Corp., for whom the Lathrop Homes Boys and Girls Club has been renamed. In ribbon-cutting ceremonial style, the club is now the Dan Cotter Boys and Girls Club. On behalf of everyone at Lathrop, let me write congratulations and thank you Dan Cotter for your generous contribution. And to Hakimah, keep up the good work; your mother was very proud as she looked on from her audience seat…..

A Successful Fest

Local Advisory Council President Juanita Stevenson would like to convey her appreciation and thanks to the many contributors to our neighborhood fest that was very successful. To name just a few participants in the fest, we had participation from members of the Lathrop Home Resident Management Corp., the LAC, CADRE, and the Chicago Public Library Book Mobile, staffed by the Hamlin Park Branch Library. Everyone at Lathrop hopes the library will stay near to its current location at Belmont and Leavitt avenues. Also thanks to the CHA Police officers who were assigned to the fest…..

A Chat With the Guv

The Lathrop Homes 4-H Club got a special treat this summer while at the Illinios State Fair. The children had a chance to speak to Gov. Jim Edgar and his wife, Brenda. Showing she had her community in mind, Amanda Connery shook hands with the governor and asked that he support food pantries in low-income areas. Perhaps this could be the beginning of a dialogue between the governor and the young people of housing. Great representing,, Amanda. Another example of the 4-H Club building leaders…..

Hakimah Qualls, 14, and her mother, Judy Givens, pose in the Cotter Boys and Girls Club. Photo by Earl Battles.

RJ's own Earl Battles poses with Lathrop youths during the Fun Day Back to School Party. Aug. 31. Photo by James Rayfield.

Lathrop kids including Amanda Connery (left) were major participants in this year's 4-H club activities at the State Fair, which drew Gov. Jim Edgar and wife Brenda Edgar. Lathrop 4-H kids not pictured are Jahmal Thomas, Loretta Harris, Michael Harris and Tenesha Coleman. Photo by Bobby Watkins.

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