Seniors Quality of Life On The Rise

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Living conditions in Chicago Housing Authority homes for senior citizens may have just taken a turn for the better. Just in case you have not heard about it, the authority is in the process of renovating four aged senior citizen high-rise buildings.

They are located in different parts of the city and scheduled to be renovated by Dec. 15. Each building is home to many seniors as well as those who are not senior age but are there due to some type of disability. The addresses are 116 W. Elm St. on the north, 3030 W. 21st St. on the west, and two buildings at 730 East 43rd St. on the south.

The plan is to devote three years to renovate the 50 CHA senior buildings.

I spoke with Martha Marshall, president of the Senior Central Local Advisory Council and a resident of 3030 W. 21st St., who assured me the city is taking the steps to accomplish the best possible job. Marshall said the reconstruction of the first four senior buildings is being done on a “first track” to set standards for all 50 fully completed senior buildings.

    RJ: “What is the deadline for the completion of the first four.”
    MM: “Mayor Daley has selected Dec. 15, 2001.”
    RJ: “Do you think that the date is going to be reached successfully?”
    MM: “We expect to be finished on time; however, we will not sacrifice quality for the deadline requirement.”
    RJ: “How are things progressing with one-on-one assistance to the residents?”
    MM: “Project managers have been put in place to oversee the moving. HOME (Housing Opportunities and Maintenance for the Elderly) and the Department of Aging are just two of a large group of agencies ready, willing and able to work hard to achieve the ultimate goals of the project, a better quality of life for seniors.”
    RJ: “Do you think that the success of this first track experience will help residents in the family dwellings welcome their turn to be moved around and unsettled for a time? They’ve been disappointed before.”
    MM: “If they would just dare to stretch their minds and look and see what’s going on around them, they can gain some confidence that we are going to get the job done.”
    Marshall’s comments were encouraging indeed – except for one thing. I learned from Marshall that the first move into newly renovated apartment will be about the middle of September. But Marshall also found out some persons may have to move twice.

I next spoke with Donna Dixon of the Chicago Housing Authority. I asked her for some feedback from the residents as to how they feel about this large undertaking.

    RJ: “How do the residents feel about the construction going on?”
    DD: “They’re excited about being able to move into a new unit. Each new, renovated unit will have an air conditioner and new kitchen and bathroom appointments with new light fixtures.”
    RJ: “Are the construction companies on schedule and meeting CHAs expectations?”
    DD: “Yes. We are satisfied about the present schedule. Long-term, I cannot comment on.”
    RJ: “Are you having any problems moving people about?”
    DD: “No. (But the residents) are taking it well. They are excited. The young disabled residents will stay. No one will be displaced.”
    RJ: “What other special housing requirements will be added in the renovation?”
    DD: “There will be 504 compliance in each building. 5 percent of the units in some buildings and 8 percent in larger buildings.”
    RJ: “Just what does 504 compliance mean?”
    DD: “In these apartments, all doorways, front, bedroom, and bathroom and showers will have wider dimensions. All the elevators will be new with wider entrances and longer door holding times.
    RJ: “Are there any plans to enlarge any apartments by adding a bedroom?”
    DD: “No. Because sometimes the kids want to come back. However, these are the golden years and they (the seniors) deserve a complete, improved quality of life.”
    RJ: “Will the residents have to move once or twice?”
    DD: “We”re trying not to have people move twice two times. That would be too much.”

My next interview was with some residents from 116 W. Elm. From the standpoint of those who are directly affected, it seems all is not “peaches and cream.” I spoke to Larry Ware.

    RJ: “How do you feel about the move?”
    LW: “It seems as though they are trying to do too much at one time. The water is shut off all day Monday-Wednesday and Friday. This makes it hard to cook, clean and be refreshed in this heat.”
    RJ: “I noticed the new overhead elevator floor level digital signal. How are they running?”
    LW: “Have you noticed the number 13 showing? (The elevator’s) been up there all afternoon. It stays broke because the construction company uses it for supplies. It took them six months to rebuild it and it has been broken down all day four times in two weeks. They built an outside elevator but never used it.”
    RJ: “That sounds serious. What do people do in wheel chairs do when that happens?”
    LW: “It got broken the other day and three or four people were stranded until past 11 p.m. It took hours for the repairman to come but it just took a few minutes to repair.
    “Last week, we had a meeting and learned that ours was one of the model buildings and should be completely finished by December 2001. They held a lottery because dissatisfaction among the residents was wide spread.
    “Like I said, all is not ‘peachy.’ Some people are having to take smaller units. U.S. Dwellings Management, under the direction of Ms. King, did the best they could. I have hope, though, that things will come out even.”

I was very interested in the fact that Housing Opportunities and Maintenance for the Elderly (HOME), a not-for-profit organization, was working closely with the Chicago Department of Aging to give services directly to these senior residents who need all they have to offer.

“The Chicago Community Trust gave us a grant to work with the Senior residents in the CHA,” explained Bobbie Steiner, the executive director for HOME.

“With these funds, we will be able to fulfill our goals of multiple services during this revitalizing of public housing.”

HOME helps seniors in every walk of life who need them and in all areas of the city. These services include maintenance, household repair and help with finding some furniture. They have been in operation since 1982 and have “focused on providing safe and affordable quality living situations to the city’s low-income elderly,” according to their information brochure.

Lastly, I interviewed Arneada King, US Dwellings’ manager from 116 W. Elm. She expressed her confidence in the renovation process. Her opinions summed up the positive outlook that is being expressed by the many overseers of what could be a rise in the quality of life for CHA’s senior residents.

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