SPECIAL FEATURE: City Gets CHA Funds

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Top Chicago Housing Authority officials have said they want to get out of the business of providing residents with programs. However, a Residents’ Journal investigation has found that CHA is transferring millions of dollars from its budget to other city departments to administer its former social service programs.

Only a few of those city departments can demonstrate that they are serving residents with those federal funds. And other city departments have yet to begin their efforts to serve residents.

Where’s the Money?

Residents and others have on occasion questioned CHA officials at public meetings on the whereabouts of the federal funds the agency received for social service programs since the transference of the programs began in 1999.

During a February 2001 Tenant Services meeting at the Central Advisory Council (CAC) office, Mildred Dennis, the Local Advisory Council (LAC) president for Robert Taylor “B,” followed up on activist Bamani Obadele’s question to

CHA officials regarding the federal dollars for resident programs. “I feel that some answers should be given to the residents. To sit up there and say nothing or to say, ‘I’ll get back to you’ is not good enough,” she said.

“Where is the money? Where are the programs? Where’s the hiring procedures? What are you all holding onto and what are you all waiting for? You all are going to answer some of those questions. We have a right to hear them.”

Since 1999, CHA has been transitioning funds for its police, educational, sports and recreational, and job-training programs to the Chicago Police Department, Chicago Department on Aging, the Chicago Board of Education, the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development (MOWD) and the Chicago Park District.

CHA CEO Terry Peterson said the Authority should never have provided social services to residents in the first place. After the June 13 Tenants Services meeting at the Central Advisory Council (CAC) office, Peterson said CHA should have held the city agencies accountable when they didn’t service the residents of public housing.

“It was wrong for CHA ever to get in the business of becoming a city within a city,” Peterson said. “(CHA) should have held those agencies that were supposed to provide (social services) accountable.”

On April 30, 2001, Residents’ Journal submitted to CHA a Freedom of Information Act request for signed contracts, memos, board agenda items and all other documentation indicating that the CHA has an agreement with other city agencies to provide services and/or materials to Chicago public housing residents.

CHA failed to comply with the federal law that requires government agencies to respond to anyone with requested information within 20 business days. Residents’ Journal did receive documents from the Chicago Board of Education and made extensive use of CHA documents obtained earlier as well as interviews with CHA and other city officials.

From this review, Residents’ Journal has learned that CHA contracted the services of the Chicago Police Department at a rate of $12 million a year to patrol CHA family developments.

The Authority also was negotiating at the time of this report to hire the Chicago Department of Human Services to administer social services to residents through its Service Connector program for $5.9 million a year throughout the implementation of the CHA’s “Plan for Transformation.”

CHA used to spend approximately $40 million annually – excluding police services through its CHA Police Department – on programs it formerly administered to its residents.

The housing authority’s total operating budget for 1999 programs was $47 million, according to a CHA Office of Programs 1999 Funding Sources document. The Authority’s operating budget for 2000 programs was $42 million. For 2001 programs, the agency projected $40 million, according to CHA’s 2001 Fiscal Year Comprehensive Budget.

CHA Chief Peterson said he didn’t know how the program dollars were used for 1999 because he didn’t come on board until June 2000. During a June 26 interview, Peterson said he needed to take a look at the 1999 budget.

“You’ve got to remember that we came on board in June of 2000. Midyear, so I would have to go back and actually sort of research,” Peterson said.

Peterson explained that CHA’s funding for programs comes from two sources of money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Program funds come from capital and operating dollars.

Peterson said much of the $12 million that CHA is giving annually to the Chicago Police Department comes from the Public Housing Drug Elimination Program (PHDEP), a HUD fund that previously funded some of CHA’s programs.

In 1999, for example, $6,127,490 was drawn from PHDEP for the Office of Programs, according to the CHA Office of Programs 1999 Funding Sources. In that year, PHDEP dollars were budgeted for several CHA departments: Resident Programs, the Charles A. Hayes Family Investment Center, Preventive Programs, Development Initiatives, Grant Administration and Resident Publications – the CHA department which formerly housed Residents’ Journal.

Regarding the 2000 and 2001 PHDEP grants, Peterson said that CHA receives $8.5 million annually. PHDEP funds, along with money from the Authority’s capital budget for 2000 and 2001, have been and will continue to be given to the Chicago Police Department to patrol CHA family developments.

“We used that $8.5 million that we get every year as part of the dollars to pay the Chicago Police Department $12 million a year to provide above base-line services,” Peterson said.

Todd Gomez, CHA chief financial officer, said that remaining federal dollars budgeted in 2001 for programs will go towards payment of services provided by the city agencies for the prior year.

“Some money was carried over into 2001 and it was used to pay off invoices for 2000,” Gomez said. “For all program-related expenses, we pay them as invoices come in. Some of those invoices may not be settled until the following year and we use the operating subsidy that we got in this calendar year for our last year’s expenses,” Gomez said.

Where Are The Programs?
CHA and the Chicago Police Department
Although Chicago Police Department officials acknowledge they have received millions of dollars from CHA, Police officials have had trouble finding police officers that want to patrol CHA sites.

In reports published in the Chicago Sun-Times on Feb. 2 and as late as April 20, police officials admitted that fewer than 300 officers had been assigned to the 450-man unit.

In late June, Chicago Police spokesperson Dave Bayless said the department now has police officers who are willing to patrol CHA developments after Chicago Police Superintendent Terry Hilliard offered officers incentives.

“We’ve done that by providing them an alternate work schedule. Meaning, they can work 10-hour days instead of 8-hour days and get an additional day off,” said Bayless.

Bayless said that the department is close to attaining the 450 officers but wouldn’t give out the exact number.

“We don’t give out strength numbers whether it’s in the CHA or North, South, East or West. That’s what the superintendent has always said,” Bayless said.

“It’s safe to say that we are reaching our capacity there.” Peterson said during the June 26 interview that monthly reports from the police department, reduction in crime at CHA sites, and eyewitness accounts by himself and the residents themselves show that the police officers are doing what they are being paid to do.

“What they have to provide to us is a month of reports on the number of arrests, what they’re doing and where they are patrolling. Crime is down in a greater percentage around public housing developments than the city as a whole. That’s a fact. And before, they (police officers) weren’t walking 16 floors in gallery-style high-rise buildings. I’ve seen them in the buildings walking,” Peterson said.

“You’ve got residents participating in CAPS. You can talk to some of the LAC presidents. They will tell you that they’ve seen a difference. And that they’ve seen the police department out at their developments walking the gallery-style high-rises buildings and being involved in CAPS meetings. So the residents are the monitors.”

Peterson said that the police department would be contracted until all of the CHA high-rises are demolished.

“What we’ve said was that our contract would run until the buildings come down and public housing is integrated back into the neighborhoods and then those developments would become part of the beat patrol of those districts that they’re in,” he said after a June 13 Tenants Service meeting.

CHA and the Chicago Board of Education
Because CHA doesn’t want to administer social service programs any more, in 1999 they started transferring their educational programs and money for those programs to the Chicago Board of Education.

A Residents’ Journal review of legal agreements between the Board and CHA showed that funds for those transferred programs were to be used to hire former CHA employees and to operate the programs. However, CHA Chief Peterson said the funds transferred were only to be used to pay salaries of the former employees.

In late June, a CHA official admitted that no tracking mechanism was in place to demonstrate that residents had participated in Board of Education programs.

According to the Aug. 21, 2000, Intergovernmental Agreement that Residents’ Journal obtained from the Chicago Board of Education, CHA agreed to pay $1,895,618.89 to the Board for provision of educational and cultural programs to residents from 1999 to 2001.

For the Employability Plus Program (EPP) – an alternative adult education and training program for 50 ABLA Homes youths 16 to 21 – CHA contracted with CPS for $45,121.00 for reimbursement of a full-time school teacher’s summer and extended pay, parent stipends, general supplies and carfare. The 12-month program that began in January 2000 was designed to assist the youths with academic, counseling and employment training.

According to a document dated July 28, 1999, and titled “Ratify an Intergovernmental Agreement with the CHA,” CHA agreed to pay the Board $307,181 for a welfare to work program the called the “Chicago Works Project.” Contracted in January 1999, the Chicago Works Project was to provide GED and pre-GED preparatory training to 450 CHA residents of Washington Park Homes, Stateway Gardens, Robert Taylor Homes, Madden Park Homes, Ida B. Wells, and Lawndale Gardens developments until June 2001.

In a third contract, CHA agreed to pay the Board of Education $1,421,816.89 to go towards the salaries and benefits of former CHA employees.

CHA agreed to pay the board $121,500 for 5 transferred programs: $60,000 was to be spent on the Just Say No Program, a drug prevention and intervention after-school program for children ages 7 to 12; $36,150 was for the Mama Said…Program, a mentoring initiative for teenage mothers; and $7,300 was to be spent on the Mock Trial Program, designed to expose youths to the legal system.

$16,700 was contracted for the Presidential Classroom Program, in which high school juniors and seniors with a B or better grade point average spend a week in Washington, D.C., to meet and have workshops with federal government officials. And $1,350 was to be spent for the Science Fair Program, an after-school initiative for exploring the world of science.

The Aug. 21, 2000, Intergovernmental Agreement states that the board employees were to be hired specifically to operate the programs described above:

“The Board agrees to interview and consider for Board employment the persons…are or were employed by the CHA for the purpose of operating the Programs.”

The same Intergovernmental Agreement also states that the transferred programs would be integrated into the Board’s existing programs only after June 30, 2001.

“The Board will run events currently scheduled in each of the Programs through June 30, 2001. “Thereafter, the Board will integrate the Programs and their participants into substantially similar existing Board Programs.”

But the former CHA employees who worked at the Board did not operate CHA’s former programs or similar programs, according to one of the CHA’s former employees. The former CHA employee – who requested to remain anonymous – said CHA residents were not given special attention by the Board programs. This former employee added that she was laid off by the Board of Education on June 12.

“We did not oversee any programs,” the former employee said. “The staff from CADRE (Combating Alcohol and Drugs through Rehabilitation and Elimination) was teaching drug-prevention classes in up to 5 schools a week. But most of us were administrative clerks.

“And a huge majority of the rest of us became truancy workers within the high school level. “And very little was done for follow-up. It was no separation of CHA students from CPS. Everything was CPS.”

“When we first started at CPS, a CHA official asked us, ‘Were we doing what CHA wanted us to do?’ We told them what we were doing period. But then again, some people might have lied because they wanted their jobs,” the former CHA employee said.

In his June 26 interview, Peterson said none of the transitioned former employees were required to manage or oversee the transferred programs. He added that CHA was not paying the city agencies to provide programs. He said that CHA contracted with the agencies to hire the former employees so they could have a job for at least one year.

“What was supposed to happen was that the former employees would go over. They would be integrated into those agencies who would work for us. They were not to go over to those agencies and be supervisors of those programs. Then we would have kept the same programs,” Peterson said.

“The majority of those dollars were staff dollars so that individuals who were working in those areas would not lose their jobs. The programs that were being duplicated at the Housing Authority would be integrated into those agencies. We transferred over dollars for staff (former CHA employees) to be retained for one year. And to have them integrated into those agencies’ budgets the following year.”

“The only money that I’m aware of that we transferred was to the Park District to continue a program called the Beach Blast. “And we transferred money to continue that program for two years because it was not a program that the Park District was running or had.”

Tracking
Peterson said last fall that CHA would soon have a system to track resident participation in all the programs transferred to other city departments. A written, revised copy of Peterson’s remarks on the Oct. 2, 2000 Annual Plan Announcement, states, “We’re also installing a computerized tracking system to monitor our capital programs, the performance of private property managers, resident usage of city services, and the resident relocation process during redevelopment.”

But in the June 26 interview, Peterson said that residents shouldn’t be tracked. “I really have a problem with folks putting our residents down,” Peterson said.

“They are not animals to be tracked. They are residents. They are Chicagoans. They should have access to the same services and benefits as everyone else.

“I get upset when folks continue to talk about public housing residents like they are a separate part of this city. Do folks track you? No. Do folks track me? No,” Peterson said.

A Dec. 6, 2000 memo from CHA’s Office of Resident Programs to an unidentified CHA official states, “In our assessment of the programs that were transitioned from CHA to CPS, the schools in which some of these programs currently exist are not adjacent to public housing developments.”

The memo also states that a CPS official informed the unidentified writer of the memo that “currently there is not a tracking mechanism in place to track CHA residents participating in existing programs.”

The Office of Programs officials would have to contact the coordinators from each school region themselves to come up with a plan to track CHA residents, the document states.

The Chicago Public Schools did not respond to numerous requests regarding the duties of the former CHA employees and if residents actually participated in the five former CHA programs for which money was allocated.

Gil Walker, an official from the CHA Office of Resident Programs, said during a recent interview that CHA is itself determining if residents participated in Board of Education programs.

“The Chicago Public Schools sent us a list of all the kids that participated in their programs. Holly Holzer (a CHA official) is cross-checking the names by way of address.

“So it’s a tedious process but what she has to do is go through a listing of the various schools adjacent to public housing and find out what kids are involved in what program,” said Walker during a June phone interview. “So that’s the only checking mechanism we have.”

To be sure that residents would receive programs and services in the future, Peterson said that David Doig, executive director of the Chicago Park District, and Paul Vallas, former Ceo at the Chicago Public Schools, both would assign staff to work with the Central Advisory Council (CAC) and Local Advisory Councils (LACS).

Peterson said, “How do we determine that our residents are being served by these agencies that have now taken over our programs? David Doig of the park district is working with Michael Brown.

And Paul Vallas if I’m not mistaken was also out there last week (the week of June 18) said ‘guess what, because of a budget shortfall we have had to make staff cutbacks but I’m committed to working with the residents or the employees who came over to find other opportunities within the agency.'”

“So you’ve got both department heads meeting with the CAC, with individual LACs that are having a point person to work with them to make sure that our residents get access to their services. That’s how you are sure,” said Peterson.

Paul Vallas is no longer at CPS. As of June 28, 36-year-old Arne Duncan replaced him as CEO. As for the CHA Office of Resident Programs, the remaining employees will be working as door-to-door outreach workers passing out flyers and providing CHA residents with information about events, programs and services. They are also responsible for monitoring the services provided by the service connectors.

The Park District
Michael Brown, the Chicago Park District’s liaison to CHA for provision of sports and recreational programs, said his agency has a couple of ways to track CHA residents participating in the Park District programs.

“They are tracked by roster and registration forms at park sites in or around CHA developments and through sports coaches who live within CHA developments,” said Brown after the June 13 CHA Tenant Services meeting.

“They are also recruited by flyers. We can safely say that 99 percent of kids come from that development. We know because of where the parks are located,” Brown said.

Chicago Park District spokesperson Angelynne Amores said CHA’s sports-oriented programs were switched over to them in September 2000 with the aim of servicing approximately 2,000 CHA residents.

Amores said the Park District hired 7 former CHA employees and would receive $757,000 to be portioned out in three aspects, according to the Intergovernmental Agreement with CHA. She said a portion of the money was to cover the salaries of the 7 former CHA employees from September 2000 to May 2001. Another portion of the money was for equipment and materials to operate the programs for 2000.

Amores said $275,000 was for the 2001 Summer Camp Programs fees for one year with an option to extend in 2002.

“The Park District will hire up to 7 former CHA employees currently working to support these programs,” Amores said.

“The CHA will pay salaries and benefits to the hired individuals through May 31, 2001 with an option to extend an agreement to 2002.

“After May 31, the CHA will pay the Park District a sum of $275,000 for summer programs fees,” said Amores.

Amores said 5 of the 7 former CHA employees were at the Chicago Park District in June.

Amores said she was unable to provide the number of residents who participated in programs transferred from CHA and already administered by the Park District, such as Midnight Basketball, which was integrated into the Park District’s Late Night Basketball program. And Amores said the Park District would not know the numbers of residents who participated in the summer programs until September.

“We at the Park District tally the numbers at the end of the program. For the summer programs, we will not have until mid-September,” she said.

Mark Plummer, CHA’s deputy chief in the Office of Programs, said that the Park District would have to pay for programs themselves after a year.

“And then after a year, the Park District is supposed to just have all of those programs within their own budget,” said Plummer after the June 13 Tenant Services meeting.

Department of Human Services
At the time of this report, CHA was continuing to negotiate with the Chicago Department of Human Services to administer social services to residents through the Service Connector program for $5.9 million a year.

In mid-June, Human Services Department Deputy Commissioner Ngoan Le said her department had not contracted with CHA nor had it received any of the $5.9 million. “We are working with the agencies who will be selected,” Le said. “This month (June) is the month that we hope to finalize the contracts.

“This is all just in paper and contracts for negotiations,” she said. Le said the Human Services Department is being paid by CHA because they are designing a program specifically for CHA residents.

“The reason why the additional funding is necessary is because right now, our programs are open to residents in the city. So people come to us when they need help but we don’t design a program for any targeted population,” she said.

The Department on Aging

Ella Muhammad, the deputy commissioner at the Chicago Department on Aging, said her agency was contracted to replace the CHA’s former Gladys Reed Senior Program. She said the Department on Aging is contracted to receive $1.2 million from two separate grants for a year’s service to hire staff as on-site coordinators at 42 of the 58 CHA senior buildings.

“The 1.2 million would be provided by two separate grants. A ROSS (a special HUD fund) grant totaling $600,000 for 2000 that expired in October 2000. And another $600,000 grant whose contract will expire in July 2001,” said Muhammad.

“Right now we’re spending a lot of our dollars. We are currently invoicing CHA.

“The other grant will expire in July, so we’re in the process of contracting with CHA again.”

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