Ickes and Other CHA News


Once again, the residents of Harold Ickes Homes have been rewarded with a new manager. Her name is Renell Caint. Once again, we are faced with a new person not familiar with the residents, a person unknown to the residents. The reasons for the successive changes have never been fully revealed.

However, some things remain constant. Late rent statements that sometimes carry new charges or incorrect charges that take months to unravel. But the latest blow touches every lease holder occupying an apartment within CHA properties. I learned of a new $20 “Surprise and Demand Blanket” when I overheard one resident talking to another.

Resident #1: Chile’, did they tell you about the $20 attached to your rent?
Resident #2: No.
Resident #1: Well, they didn’t tell me a thing either. Here I am at the office to pay my regular rent and they tell me I’m $20 short. I say, ‘What? How am I $20 short?’ They didn’t tell me they raised my rent. ‘When did this happen?’ I asked the lady at the desk.

‘Everybody has to pay $20 more for excess utilities across all the developments,’ the lady said. I stood there dumfounded because I couldn’t believe it. How am I going to get an extra $20 I don’t know nothing about before I pay my rent and even before the rent statements have come out, which they come past the fifth of the month. You paid what you remember you should pay before that. It makes you feel a little crazy having to try and find extra money to pay something we don’t know about.

It is true. The residents were notified that they were to be charged with excess utility payments. This notice came about six to seven months ago, and sure enough my rent statement had $1.87 on it for excess utilities. That was no sweat. The problem is, there have been no other excess utility charges on successive rent statements, late though they have been.

Two weeks after the news of the utility charges came out, we all received a flyer in our door apologizing for the late rent statement issue – the first one ever in five years. It read: “We are consistently working with the Chicago Housing Authority and Work Flow Inc. to expedite the statements.” The letter was signed by Sandra Harris, vice president of real estate for WCDC, the management company for the Ickes development. Even with the apology, seniors and very low income residents still face a new challenge to find an extra $20.

CHA Harold Ickes LAC President Gloria Williams (seated) and other residents during their annual Family Fun Day at the public housing complex Photo by Jacqueline Thompson

The True Blues
The new blinking blue surveillance cameras placed around Harold Ickes Homes have left many residents feeling that we have been publicly labeled as a high crime area. Many Ickes residents feel that we inherited the constant traffic of drug seekers from Robert Taylor Homes, Stateway Gardens and all the other demolished developments that have fallen under the hammer of gentrification.

True, the fancy, flashing ‘Blue Light District’ cameras are designed to stop crime, but many residents want the world to know that most of Ickes’ residents are not criminals. The majority of the population is children, 90 percent who attend school each day. Others are infants and toddlers.

Ten percent of the residents are seniors with no ties to criminal activity. Many residents are asking if the blue lights are making it official that Ickes needs gentrification too.

Rare Visitors
Earlier this year, the Nation of Islam graced our lives with a small army of straight-laced, upstanding men.

Each took to the buildings to meet the residents and to invite them to answer the call of perhaps a better way of life by attending the annual Saviors Day, taking place the same weekend of their visit. The Nation of Islam representatives were very polite and eager to share their religious messages.

Continuing Unrest at Altgeld Gardens
Altgeld Gardens is experiencing a whirlwind of disbelief.

I talked to a resident named Unique who I had spoken with before the actual redevelopment of residences began last year. She said she was frustrated and couldn’t find anywhere to go for relief.

RJ: Hello Unique. What is happening with the revitalizing program for Altgeld Gardens?

Unique: A whole lot of nothing. I don’t understand the whole change. Everything has been downgraded instead of upgraded. Just yesterday, I saw seven or eight of my neighbors who were talking about the results from the work to improve the quality of life promised by the CHA. Well, it wasn’t good. One lady, who lives in the first block of homes to be finished, reported her floors were so unleveled her furniture was sliding all the time. One other person said the handle fell off the toilet. I had to get rid of my new refrigerator and stove, and I had to get rid of my chandelier my mother had given me. CHA issued no blinds. You can’t put up curtains. There were no blinds in stock. People are using newspaper to cover windows.

RJ: Unique, tell me, have all the residents there been charged $20 for utilities?

Unique: Yes. However, what happened to me was on last month’s rent statements. I had a paid credit but the next month, the credit was gone. The next month I owed $20 but I found out by a late rent statement only after my rent was paid. We were issued no forms for the $20, when I was charged with a 15-day notice because I couldn’t pay it all and when I tried to pay it, they wouldn’t take it and threatened to take me to court.

RJ: Remembering the huge hassle over washing equipment in the residences, what happened to the new facilities that were promised?

Unique: They removed block 17, the largest block here that had 500 units in the midst of Altgeld, to put in the laundry. They have not put it in yet. So CHA supplied buses to take people to other suburbs to wash. To places like Lansing, 171st and Torrence behind Calumet City and Homewood. It didn’t work. Those places were too far.
They don’t realize how much time it wasted, how much time is taken away from being with kids who may be unattended. You are away just washing 8 or 9 hours. You wait for the bus to leave at 8 am to come back at 4 pm or 5 pm. Being away for so many hours is frustrating because you may be finished long before others but you still have to wait for the bus. Meanwhile, your kids are back in the development running buck wild because the buses are so small, there is no room for them to travel to the Laundromat with you.

RJ: Tell me, how close are they to being on schedule to finish the improvements in the homes?

Unique: Block one, two and three were to be finished by January 2006, but it’s now April and block one is not even finished. There was a couple who were ready to move into a finished unit with a March 20 date but even the leasing agent found things wrong and promised them they could move in April 10. It’s still not ready. So, as you can see, we are completely under stress.

Unique finished off the interview with her hope that residents do in fact organize and try to get CHA to make a change for better treatment for themselves and their children.

Martha Boyd from Altgeld Gardens reported blanket frustration too.

In an e-mail to RJ, she alleged that Altgeld’s Eastlake managers are charging the residents certain sums of money without providing evidence for it and threatening them with eviction if they don’t simply “just pay it.” Then they charge $281 for “court costs,” even if they never submit any paperwork.

“In the past, Eastlake has been fined thousands of dollars for defrauding residents out of legal fees, which by law you can’t recover in the state of Illinois,” Boyd wrote.

Boyd added that Eastlake Management employees were seen by many residents loaded on the bus to the Laundromat.

Boyd said that management employees were also spotted wheeling a washing machine that another resident was forced to leave behind. Since residents aren’t allowed to move the machines into the new units, the machines are treated as abandoned property.

Boyd wrote that residents were suspicious that re-selling the washing machines has become a lucrative business for the management company’s staff.

Tags: , ,
Categories: Uncategorized