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New Facility for Scattered Sites

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Hispanic Housing Development Corporation opened its new offices for the Scattered Sites North Central program, 1402 N. Kedzie, on May 1.

The director of this agency is Hipolito “Paul” Roldan. In an interview with him, I asked if it was difficult to manage this agency:

“In life, nothing is easy,” he responded. “It all depends on how one works to reach their objective; if everything is accomplished positively, you can see the difference accomplished in struggle.”

“Also,” he added, “the problems are not as important as the work that we do to resolve the problems of the community and its needs.

“Here [at HHDC] we don’t distinguish people. Here we interview all types of people without giving importance to race, color or economic situation. Our job is to serve the community and until now, we have accomplished that. We are completely satisfied because we have united to serve the people of our community.

“Ninety-five percent of the families that we serve are decent people of different religions and races who live an exemplary life. But there are always people with different ideologies and then we have to intervene to resolve those cases. Our purpose is for everyone to live like brothers and enjoy their homes.”

I asked Roldan if he knew about the new “One Strike” Policy. He told me that this new law is sending a very important and powerful message to persons who do not want to understand that they have a commitment to the community and that they have to be part of it.

“Our objective is to make residents feel like united families and enjoy their new homes,” said Roldan.

I also spoke with state Sen. Miguel del Valle (D-Chicago), who was also invited and enjoying the company of his compatriotas. He said, “This scattered sites program is very important because it ensures that low-income residents have a decent place to live. But for this program to work well, the residents need to be organized. We have to ensure that the people that are going to reside in these units are responsible people, that they are not going to allow gangs or drug activities in these units or around the community.

“It is very important,” continued del Valle, “that the residents unite like brothers to enjoy their new homes in peace and harmony. We are creating a Latin museum that is being constructed in the park that will be a source of pride in the community, like our library and our vocational center. The streets are being repaired and you can see the positive change in our community and there is still much to do but the progress is within sight of the whole community,” said del Valle.

I asked Mrs. Magdalena Martinez, “Why are you so happy?” and she told me, “We are a group of residents in the community and also members of the Federation of Block Clubs since 1993 or 1994. We fought to have this building constructed for scattered site offices but also so that it could be a community center to serve the community and so it could be constructed for the residents, children and youth to better their economic and social situation. This is the purpose of these activities and we feel very happy for the accomplishment reached today,” said Martinez.

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Stop The Violence

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CHA Police

I recently interviewed Richard Smiley, the director of the CHA Police Department. Smiley expressed his concern for all CHA communities.

He said, “As we approach the 21st century, police enforcement will have to be different.”

He explained that 60 percent of crimes are drug related but that we will have to treat the problem as an illness. We must deal with the cause before we can initiate a cure.

Smiley said he is starting classes for residents who need GEDs and classes for children who need to learn how to keep the weight off. Smiley noted that overweight people suffer from depression and ridicule and the class to help them is called Overeaters Anonymous and is open to all residents. The children with eating disorders will need professional help and help developing their self-esteem to conquer some of their problems.

Smiley, a former resident of Altgeld Gardens, said locking people up is not always the answer. The CHA police want to serve and protect and make the quality of life better for our people.

Smiley mentioned that CHA Police recently had successfully raided the Lawndale complex just behind where I live. He was right. I have to go to Roosevelt Road to get a bus since the service has been cut back and I was always scared because the streets are full of young men standing outside on every corner. They aren’t there anymore and I breath easier as I go home at night.

Smiley explained how the lock down of many complexes will force the drugs out:

“The residents are our clients,” he said.

Smiley’s vision is to turn would-be law breakers into law enforcers.

Part of Smiley’s program is a partnership with Harold Washington College offering residents, police officers and CHA employees programs where they can earn certificates and degrees in addictions studies. The goal of the program is to produce CHA Police officers and CHA employees who are state-certified substance abuse counselors.

Residents who go through the course will become more marketable for employment. Police officers and employees who go through the course will increase their knowledge in criminal justice and the human sciences. Interested parties can contact the Applied Science Department at Harold Washington College (312) 553-6989.

Erasing Criminal Records

On Aug. 5, I went to the Fernwood United Methodist Church, 10057 S. Wallace St. Pastor the Rev. Al Sampson and his lawyers are promising to help with erasing criminal records. This effort is called Operation Clean Slate and is sponsored by the Million Man March-Metropolitan Area Planning Committee and the Chicago chapter of Men Against Destruction-Defending Against Drugs and Social-Disorder (MAD DADS) and can be reached at (773) 287-1960.

I interviewed lawyer Rose E. Joshua, who wanted to spread the word of this program throughout the city. If turnout is heavy enough, Joshua said they may take the idea to the state legislature and get more done for people who made silly mistakes in their youth. Those records often kill their chances for finding gainful employment.

Joshua wants people who have served their time and been clear of any criminal acts for a number of years to be able to just write no on the employment application.

CAPS March

Also on Aug. 5, 25 neighborhood marches for the Community Alternative Policing Strategies (CAPS) were held throughout the city. Mayor Richard M. Daley led the one in his neighborhood. These marches involve people taking to the streets to tell the gangs that they will call the police in the event a crime is committed. They also get to know the police in their neighborhoods one on one.

Danny Davis Meeting

On Aug. 12, I met U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-7) at a meeting at Mt. Sinai Hospital. Davis said he will host meetings throughout the city.

Davis tried to address all the complaints made by the participants. There were questions on health care for children and for seniors. There was the usual concern of what is being done about the gangs. The meeting lasted for 3 hours and many other issues were discussed.

Also attending the meeting was Michael A. Robbins, director of the Handgun Epidemic Lowering Plan (HELP). Robbins spoke for all of those who have lost a loved one through gun violence, such as myself.

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Access Report

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In my continuing story line on problems of accessibility relating to those of us with disabilities, specifically of a physical nature, I have devoted much coverage to the matter of transportation. Through my personal involvement along with the information I have gained by talking to others who are also seniors and/or people with disabilities, I have learned that transportation is a complex problem without a simple solution.

I will first address a problem that occasionally exists with our own CHA transportation system: the availability of busses and other vehicles with wheelchair lifts to transport those of us who are residents of senior housing developments to various activities. I will use as examples two occasions within one month – on Saturday, June 21, when some residents of my Eckhart Park senior housing development attended a performance of the gospel play “Perilous Times” at the Arie Crown Theatre in McCormick Place, and on Wednesday, July 8, when the Eckhart Park Traveling Club attended its monthly lunch outing at the Country Buffet restaurant in Vernon Hills.

On both occasions, I had to get out of my wheelchair and maneuver the steps on the regular school bus which transported us. I am able to accomplish this maneuver but with great difficulty. During the lunch outing, I was scheduled to provide entertainment to the group as a singer.

CTA Paratransit Operations and many other services providing transportation for seniors or those with disabilities are having difficulties finding enough drivers to operate their accessible vehicles and other problems. Over a period of less than 2 months, I experienced 4 pick-ups in which the driver was more than 1 hour.

In letters to Nancy Isaac, General Manager of CTA Paratransit Operations, I related all of these plus other failings of the carrier I use, Cook-Dupage Transportation (CDT). I wrote to Isaac about how often CDT had failed to pick me up within 30 minutes of the scheduled pick-up time. After each incident of extreme lateness, I telephoned Nora Mitchner of CTA Paratransit, who has been given the responsibility along with CDT head Chris Jans of monitoring my trips.

Each time I wrote to Isaac, I received a reply in which she provided important information. Along with my telephone conversations with Mitchner, I was also contacted by telephone by Jason Houston of CDT on July 14 and by Josh Leon of CTA Paratransit on July 20. So it has become obvious to me that some attention is being given to the deficiencies I have experienced.

Leon’s contact was most interesting. He advised me that CTA Paratransit carriers are penalized for any pick-ups over 30 minutes late and receive the maximum penalty for pick-ups that arrive 60 minutes or more late. Leon said the amount of this maximum penalty is $150. Since CTA Paratransit receives funding through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in order to operate its transportation system, penalties for lateness are deducted from the amount of total funding for each carrier. For just my four trips which were late by 60 minutes each, CDT suffered a loss of $600. This loss must be considered very serious, especially because my cost for each of these trips was just $1.35, the price of a CTA token. For all 45 trips which I took from May 1 through July 19) which totals and of my cost), my total cost was $60.75.

I was first required to use vehicles with wheelchair lifts or ramps in July 1993 after being discharged from nearly 3 months of hospitalization. For my second medical outpatient visit on July 30, 1993, I first used a medical transportation service which regular insurance plans will not cover but I was able to use because I had temporary medical coverage through the Illinois Department of Public Aid. I began using CTA Paratransit in December, 1993, after becoming certified by the Regional Transportation Authority. When I reached age 65 last November, I began to be contacted by insurance companies who work with Medicare.

A little more than 2 months ago, I began to use a medical transportation service through an insurance company under the provisions of Medicare. Through my use of this service, I discovered that they have difficulty in obtaining drivers. It was conveyed to me as a problem confronted by CDT Paratransit. In my conversations with an analyst with the Illinois Department of Employment Security, she told me that the problem is that drivers and other transportation personnel are not being paid enough and with our outstanding economy, competent drivers are able to obtain higher paying employment with minimal difficulty.

In discussing this problem with others, I have learned that many who need the service will quickly give up and call a taxi cab or use an alternative service. Many others have become complacent and accept the existing service as is, using it only for emergencies.

With the number of seniors who receive Medicaid benefits through Public Aid and who will only use transit services for medical purposes, the problems of the service are not as obvious per total usage. CTA Paratransit is able to schedule a total of 4200 trips per day per its operating budget and the number of requests received unfortunately exceeds this amount. Obviously, the complexity of the problem requires more study and hopefully more viable solutions will be reached.

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Altgeld Gardens Report

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Hey this is Ms. Fornizy again:

I have not forgotten anyone and I will be around for all good information. I promise.

Summer Fun

These are all the recent events at Altgeld Gardens:

We had a Christmas in July. All the kids were happy to have prizes, food and games. That event was sponsored by the Local Advisory Council (LAC).

We had another event – a carnival which was a real success. Also, block 17 had a second annual block party for all the kids. And now it being the end of the summer, all the kids are going back to school. They look so nice in all their uniforms.

I also want to send best wishes to a lovely person, Mrs. R. Garner, a young lady at heart at 98 years old and going on 99. Remember, we all love you.

The Altgeld Gardens Baseball Team is a success. They are playing other baseball teams all over the city and having a lot of fun. The coach, whose nickname is “Bird,” is doing a wonderful job.

Also, I have a men’s team that’s called Bruce’s Family and the games are coming out real. Also I’m trying to get something for the young ladies to do for the summer.

Summer Program

I have some good news: Sharon’s Summer Program is going strong at the YMCA. If you are interested, get in touch with me at (773) 535-5614. If your child is in school, please get a copy of the medical form and I will get back with you with an application. I’d like to thank the YMCA for letting the children participate.

They are having swimming trips every Friday and they go to the library, play basketball, football, baseball, soccer and go to the park. They also have nice free lunches. Mr. Sanders, we thank you.

A Poem

This is a poem for everyone:

Bloom where you are planted!!!!

As we try and fail and try again, we must discover that if we are to florish as creative beings, if we are to grow into wholeness, we must bloom wherever we are planted. We may not have perfect careers, homes or relationships. Few of us do. However, TODAY you’ve got another chance to re-create your circumstances and make them as perfect as it is to do with the resources you have get it right as you can make it what more could you desire?

Sympathy

The sympathy for this month goes out to the bereaved families in Altgeld Gardens. The three families are Delores Shappard’s, Mrs. Glay’s Wiseman’s (My aunt), and Daisey from Fornizy’s family.

May God bless all of you.

CHA Maintenance

The CHA maintenance workers are doing much better. They have been coming out on time and also the main office is improving. Thanks.

P.S. You don’t have to keep calling on the phone. They come right out.

Local Politics

The Local Advisory Council (LAC) is doing a wonderful job. Esther Wheeler, Gail Reed and all the representatives are very helpful.

Schools News

Mrs. Lyles, the schools community representative is a good, hard-working person. She really works for the children in this school. She takes the children to basketball games. She is a wonderful and understanding person. She’s very concerned about the children’s needs.

The children speak highly of her. She takes time to listen to their problems. She is a good person.

The Local School Council candidate forum at Altgeld turned out to be nice. It took place July 8. They will decide who is going to be on the LSC board at Aldridge School.

I attended some of Aldridge’s after-school programs. I was surprised to see all of the wonderful things that were going on there. It was very nice.

I was stuck in room 128. They had checkers, Nintendo and other games just for the kids to have something to do after school. Keep up the good work.

Ride-A-Thon

On Thursday, July 23, at 10 a.m., Altgeld Gardens held an event called the ALTGELD RIDE-A-THON. This event was presented by the CHA Police Department Police Activity League. The Ride-A-Thon departed at 11 a.m. and the participants returned at 3 p.m. Everyone loved it.

Starting Tuesday, July 28, the CHA Police Department will present the Altgeld Reading Club. This club meets every Tuesday and Thursday. We have field trips for children, which consist of trips to the DuSable museum, the Black Ensemble Theater, Chicago Art Institute and the Harold Washington Library.

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Robert Taylor: The Homes/The Man

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By the end of summer, three more high rises in the Robert Taylor Homes will be just a thing of the past. 3919 S. Federal Street was number one to make demolition history. Next is the infamous “Hole,” 5326 and 5322 S. State streets and 5323 S. Federal.

Based at the Robert Taylor Boys and Girls Club, 5120 S. Federal, the Local Advisory Council (LAC) is responsible for assisting residents with various activities.

CHA and U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) officials worked with the LAC to create a strategic plan for the redevelopment of the Robert Taylor Homes. The plan is posted above the Xerox machine for public information. Also, there’s a CHA Executive Summary released by Wendell Campbell Associates Inc. that goes into further detail about the redevelopment project.

CHA and HUD’s plan is to demolish all the buildings in Robert Taylor within a 5-year period. The overall plan is to redevelop all the high-rise projects for the new millennium: Cabrini Green, Robert Taylor and Stateway Gardens. The dates are not etched in stone, however. The goal is to have mixed-income communities in all these areas. Read more »

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