Residents: “What People Want”

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More than one year ago, We The People Media began a new effort that has recently produced the first of what will be an ongoing series of reports relating to the CHA Plan for Transformation, the agency’s $1.5 billion effort to totally redevelop public housing in Chicago. The creation of “What People Want: The Relocation Information Center Feasibility Study” has expanded We The People Media’s employment of public housing residents in the pursuit of resident-based documentation and analysis of the low-income communities in and around public housing developments.

For one year, Residents’ Journal Assistant Editor Beauty Turner and I worked with a group of residents of public housing and other low-income communities to develop an Advocacy and Outreach Team. Together, we created “What People Want.” It is a survey of the thoughts and perspectives of community members – both residents of public housing and non-residents – of the Grand Boulevard neighborhood regarding the Plan for Transformation and neighborhood change in general. “What People Want” is the first study of its kind: a report documenting a low-income Chicago community imagined, researched and written by public housing residents and other members of low-income communities.

This report is a direct result of the experiences of We The People Media’s staff. As the community newspaper for Chicago’s public housing residents, Residents’ Journal has been in the center of the conversation – and controversy – surrounding the CHA Plan for Transformation in the five years since the Plan was unveiled. Residents’ Journal has ensured that the community of public housing residents received information and that their perspectives were preserved throughout this time of dramatic change and uncertain outcomes. This experience has trained the staff of Residents’ Journal in documenting and analyzing the information connected to the plan; the core of the Advocacy and Outreach Team are members of the freelance staff of Residents’ Journal.

Last fall, Beauty and I assembled a team of advocates and experts from the fields of sociological research, journalism and community development. The Fall Institute, as we named it, allowed the team to fully debrief themselves on the perspectives of people involved in the plan who live outside of low-income neighborhoods. With these perspectives in mind, the Advocacy and Outreach Team developed a research strategy to collect the ideas and perspectives of those who are living and working in and around public housing neighborhoods. We The People Media’s Advocacy and Outreach Team documented the perspectives of residents on the Plan for Transformation; where policy gaps existed; and what, if anything, the community thought could be done to improve the plan.

“What People Want” found overwhelming consensus in Grand Boulevard that greater efforts to provide information to residents of public housing are needed. The study also paints a picture of the Grand Boulevard community that rejects the stereotypes of Chicago public housing developments and of low-income communities in general.

“What People Want” recommends the creation of a Relocation Information Center, a resident-managed facility that would provide information to residents and monitor the services they receive. Led by public housing residents, the Advocacy and Outreach Team will continue to add the undiluted perspectives of the low-income communities they represent.

We are moving forward to create the Relocation Information Center to implement what we have learned in our study. Please check our website and watch these pages in Residents’ Journal for updates.

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