If the Suit Fits, Who Wears It?

by  Assistant Editor

There have been numerous suits in the world of Chicago public housing. Some hang around like old suits in a thrift shop, and some new ones are tailor made just for the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) and the Chicago Police Department (CPD) by the residents of public housing.

The suits that I’m talking about are not clothes but lawsuits. But these suits are clinging to CHA all the same. Class action lawsuits are what I’m talking about – many of them are being hung out there to air dry, while some of them were considered form fitting.

In some cases, they were tailor made for the residents, and the residents won. Or did they?

Most residents are saying the suits that have been designed for them often come up short or too tight. Either way, the suits have not covered or protected the residents from the elements.

I can’t help but find a few rips and tears in the way justice is handed down to the poor versus the way it is handed down to the well-to-do.

Residents complain that, out of all the lawsuits that have been recently won for them, the end result has been that the lawyers and CHA come out well dressed and looking good. The residents still end up without.

Take for instance the lawsuit concerning the 20-years-old contaminated waste in the public housing development called Altgeld Gardens. (Read Clemolyn Brinson, Residents’ Journal, Jan/Feb 04-pg. 9.)

The lawyers said the residents won but yet the lawyer got half and CHA reaps the rest of the rewards in the form of back rent. The residents who sued won’t get money. CHA gets the money and gives the residents credit for rent payment. Of the money coming back to them as up front or back rent, the residents didn’t even get to see the emerald green color on the dollar bill.

Many of the residents are now saying, “Show me the money!”

Many residents feel as if CHA and the lawyers are treating them like little children by issuing their money out to CHA as if they don’t have sense enough to know how to manage money and if they did that they would give it to CHA before using it for anything else – even if they are up to date in rent payments.

But those previous law suits didn’t detour employees of a Cabrini Green Resident Management Corporation (RMC) from cutting their law suit against CHA from whole cloth when they felt that their rights was violated. Their lawsuit is in regard to the unannounced entry of CHA representatives and police officers in the wee hours of the morning before the birds got up to chirp roughly four months ago. The police and CHA officials locked a resident management company out of their on-site offices, alleging incompetence. But a second resident management group occupied the same office space and, while employees say they were promised at the time they could keep working, they have been shut out of the office.

“CHA just came in out of nowhere. They knew that we were not with William Green Homes management RMC,” Brenda Sanders said.

“[CHA Director of Operations] Duwaine Bailey took me to the back of the office on the day that they came in to oust the other RMC, he said to me that this didn’t have anything to do with the RMC that I am president of,” Sanders added.

“But yet they put pad locks and chains on the door and now VPS doors cover the place where we were managing from,” Sanders said, her voice rising slightly as she spoke.

CHA spokesperson Derek Hill said both RMCs had been fired.

“Both of the RMCs were ousted. We asked them to correct some things; they refused to do that. That’s about all I could tell you since it is now in litigation,” Hill said.

Sanders’ lawyer could not be reached by press time.

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