Housing For The Disabled

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People with disabilities will be interested to know there are many officials at city, state and private agencies who are supposed to find affordable housing for the disabled in Chicago.

People with disabilities are treated unfairly in many community-based housing programs. Forcing a person to participate in a program simply because he or she is a tenant is discriminatory and many advocacy groups are questioning the legality of the practice. People with disabilities must be able to choose where they wish to live and the services they need, said Karen Tamley, an activist for the disabled who works at Access Living.

In September 1988, then President Ronald Reagan signed the Fair Housing Amendments Act, which became law on March 12, 1989.

According to Alberto Barrera, the housing team leader for Access Living, the Act (FHAA) was authorized by the U.S. Congress in order to strengthen enforcement of Fair Housing requirements, not only in public housing projects funded and governed by the state, but also in those privately owned. It was intended to extend civil rights protections for families with children and persons with disabilities.

This year, I have attended at least three conferences concerned with the availability of housing throughout the city, Cook County, state and the nation. However, I cannot recall a single incident where there were activists focusing on the availability of housing options for people with disabilities. With many activists discussing a housing crunch, the need for housing for people with disabilities will be particularly great.

Searching around, I was able to locate a number of agencies working specifically with the disabled dealing with issues directly related to their housing needs.

One such agency is the Disability Rights Action Coalition for Housing (DRACH). DRACH describes itself as “a national grassroots housing network of individuals with all types of disabilities, disability activists and customers of federal housing programs.” Their strategies include offering workshops on housing issues and taking direct action, mostly in the exercising legal avenues to ensure housing rights. One of their main strategies is to actively participate in local housing boards, committees, working groups and public forums.

The contact person in the Chicago area is Darrell Price. His office is located at 614 W. Roosevelt Road, Chicago, IL 60617 and the phone number is 312-253-7000, or 253-7002 (tty).

Later on in my search, I found Janice Finney. Finney is knowledgeable about housing in general and she works for the Chicago Department of Housing as a chief research analyst. Finney said her office is ready to serve the destitute and those with immediate housing problems. Finney assured me that her office was one of the few bureaucratic vehicles capable of acting swiftly for the homeless and those citizens in dire need.

Her contact information is as follows:

Janice Finney, Department of Housing, Executive Division, 318 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60604. Telephone: 312- 747- 9000.

The disabled have housing rights and concerns which are in many ways different from those of the general population. The disabled are found in public housing and privately owned residences. Some persons with disabilities are being institutionalized and some against their will.

I live in the Del Prado, which is on the list of those buildings currently opting out of affordable housing for the financially disadvantaged. Many in my building are disabled and are stressed about the thought of returning to institutions if the building fails to make improvements. If many or a few of the apartments do not pass stringent and detailed CHAC inspections, many could lose the residences to which they have become accustomed and in which they have been living for 10 to 20 years.

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