Last Day in 4525

by  Assistant Editor

Friday, Oct. 4, was the last day for the residents of 4525 S. Federal St. in the Robert Taylor Homes to be neighbors. The building was being closed in preparation for demolition. The Chicago Housing Authority closed a number of buildings in Robert Taylor this fall to make way for a new mixed-income community they have promised to build in its place.

The residents would have liked a peaceful final day in the building that many of them called home for decades. But the words I most often overheard from tenants describing that day were “chaos,” “mayhem” and “confusion.” Many of the tenants were scared, upset and confused because they didn’t know where they would live, how long they would live there, or how they would live.

Many of the families were confused about their moves. Stephanie Miller, a young single mother of 4, said, “I wonder how will I survive. I don’t have an income, only food stamps.” Miller was one of the families that was moved to Leclaire Courts, a public housing development on the West Side.

Miller’s relocation will be complicated because tenants at Leclaire Courts, unlike Robert Taylor, have to pay their own gas bills. At Robert Taylor, tenants only pay for their electric service. 4525 S. Federal was scheduled to be closed on Sept. 30. But that didn’t happen. On that date, 15 families were still in the building, many with no moves scheduled. The families that did have a scheduled move were supposed to leave only on the following Friday.

Some of the residents were very happy with their moves. But most of the residents were confused, angry and very upset. Some had moved from Robert Taylor to developments with even worse problems with gang violence. One resident, who asked that her name not be used, said, “I’m not going to the Dearborn Homes. Those people are crazy down there.” On the last day of 4525 S. Federal, in the front of the building were police officers, management company staff members and CHA officials as well as Robert Taylor “A” Local Advisory Council President Mattie McCoy and former LAC President Cora Dillard.

In back of the building, two Department of Human Services vans were parked to service the residents that were squatters. Inside the van were social workers. Romona and Irene Mathis, who were residents in 4525 S. Federal for almost over 7 years, tried to get services from the vans after they found themselves homeless.

Romona was a lease-compliant tenant until her son was accused of selling illegal drugs at the base of the building. The development’s manager evicted Romona under the One Strike policy. One Strike allows public housing authorities to evict a leaseholder for any drug-related or hard-core crime, or allegation of a crime, committed by the leaseholder, family member or friend of the leaseholder, on or off the housing authority’s premises.

Romona claims that her son was already in prison at the time he was accused of selling drugs. Her appeals were still pending the day 4525 S. Federal closed. Romona stayed in her apartment even after her eviction. But on the building’s last day, she said, “They want me and my family to go to a shelter. I’m homeless as of now.”

Standing next to her sister with tears in her eyes, Irene Mathis said, “I can’t go to a shelter. My children will not get along with the other children there. “I can’t go. I will not go to a shelter. “They wanted to send me to 10 South Kedzie, where all of the homeless sleep in a big wide auditorium.

“I would rather walk the streets all day and night with my children before I go to a place like what CHA is offering me. “I know DCFS (Department of Family Services) is going to take my children but I’d rather take my chances living in the streets.” She spoke these words as she choked back tears. “The CEO of CHA, Terry Peterson, said nobody was going to become homeless behind this Transformation Plan.

“Well, world: take a good look. We are homeless.” One resident who had been a neighbor of the Mathis’ said, “CHA is treating people like they are animals.” I talked to “Theotis,” who was a squatter in apartment 402 in 4525 S. Federal, after he left the Department of Human Services’ van. “Did they help you, Theotis,” I asked? “No,” Theotis said. “They said I didn’t have any identification so they can’t help me. To them, I’m just a John Doe, a nobody.” As the day drew to a close, a lot of loose ends were left untied.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
Categories: Uncategorized