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Tenants’ Lawyer: CHA Drug Testing Policy Will End Up in Court

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Tenants' Central Advisory Council President Myra King telling former CHA Chief Lewis Jordan that their proposal to drug test all public tenants was “unfair and cruel," during a public hearing on the subject, at the Charles A. Hayes Family Investment Center on June 2, 2011. Photo by Mary C. Piemonte

After a huge public outcry this past June, the Chicago Housing Authority Board of Commissioners decided against drug testing all public housing tenants in the family and senior housing portfolio it oversees. See Residents’ Journal’s coverage here: https://wethepeoplemedia.org/homepage/board-squashes-cha-drug-testing-plan/
But CHA still approves of testing public housing tenants at their mixed-income properties managed by private developers as a condition for occupancy, which is not sitting right with the tenants’ Central Advisory Council.
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CHA Reopens Landmark Senior Building

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CHA CEO Charles Woodyard talking about how lives have been changed because of the renovations at the Pomeroy Senior Apartments, as Ald. Harry Osterman (48, from left) and Steven Meiss, director of HUD’s Illinois Office of Public Housing, look on, during the opening ceremony of the landmark building, on November 8, 2011. Photo by Mary C. Piemonte

Seniors who have been waiting for 5 years to return home to the Chicago Housing Authority’s Ralph J. Pomeroy Senior Apartments can now do so.

The 9-story, 89-year-old landmark building at 1039 W. Hollywood Blvd. in the Edgewater neighborhood, which the CHA obtained in 1966, officially reopened yesterday after receiving a “$21 million makeover,” said CHA’s new CEO, Charles Woodyard, during the grand opening ceremony.

Residents’ Journal reported in the fall of 2008 that many relocated seniors were eagerly waiting to return to the Pomeroy Apartments, which closed in the first quarter of 2006. You can read about it here:https://wethepeoplemedia.org/uncategorized/cha-seniors-keep-waiting-to-return-home/.

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Some Lathrop Kids Get a Bus, But Not All

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Students from CHA's Lathrop Homes who transferred to Fredrick Jahn Elementary School now have a bus to help them trek the long distance there. Photo by Mary C. Piemonte

Students from the Lathrop Homes Chicago public housing complex now attending an elementary school some 10 blocks away recently got a bus their parents were fighting for – but some of their neighbors are still forced to walk.

The bus started taking kindergarten to eighth grade students from Lathrop to Jahn Elementary School a few weeks ago. The students started going to Jahn School after Schneider Elementary School, located inside the Lathrop development, closed this past June. Parents claimed Schneider closed due to a decrease in enrollment, which was caused by the Chicago Housing Authority’s relocation of families from Lathrop.
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Is CHA Holding Vacant Apartments?

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Leah Levinger, coalition coordinator for the Chicago Housing Initiative, talking to reporters about the huge vacancy rate at public housing sites, before the CHA Board meeting at Lathrop Homes on September 20, 2011. Photo by Mary C. Piemonte

Is the Chicago Housing Authority sitting on vacant units that could be going to needy families?

Housing advocates recently took the CHA to task for failing to lease all of its available units. The CHA, however, recently boasted of winning an award from the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development for having a 98 percent occupancy rate for its senior, mixed-income and family housing portfolios.

CHA has more than 9,200 apartments in buildings designated for seniors and over 11,400 units in family developments and scattered sites, and also administers 37,000 Housing Choice Vouchers. But the Chicago Housing Initiative, a coalition of seven community-based organizations working to preserve low-income housing, recently told the CHA Board that the agency is manipulating its numbers to make it seem as if more of these units are leased than actually are occupied.
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Ex-Offenders Strive For Better

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William Harper (second from left), vice president of Meyer’s Corporation, poses with ex-offenders he hired, along with CHA Altgeld Gardens Local Advisory Council President Bernadette Williams (third from left), Altgeld Gardens tenant Cheryl Johnson (fourth from right), president of People for Community Recovery, and CHA Senior Central Local Advisory President Martha Marshall (third from right), one of the first CHA tenants who established her own business, after the CHA Board of Commissioners meeting on October 18, 2011. Photo by Mary C. Piemonte

There is a decades old myth that Black men just don’t want to work. But William Harper, a tenant of the Altgeld Gardens public housing development on the far South Side of the city, has many examples that dispel that myth.
Harper is founder and vice president of Meyer’s Corporation, which provides general contracting services such as dry walling, painting, sub-frame, roofing, landscaping and snow removal.

Harper has been in business since January 2008 in the Altgeld public housing community, he told Residents’ Journal after the Oct. 18 CHA Board of Commissioners meeting at the Vivian Gordon Senior Apartments, 4227 S. Oakenwald St. Within that last year alone, Harper said he has hired over 59 African American men ex-offenders but added that he is having a difficult time in getting paid by the CHA’s private Management Company HJ Russell for some completed work, and had to lay off some of his employees.

“I was unable to keep all employed because of the lack of work I am receiving,” he said.
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Special Investigation: CHA Still Wants Kids’ Report Cards

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Myra King, chairman of the tenants’ Central Advisory Council, telling CHA officials that their desire to have residents’ kids reports cards was “unfair and discriminatory” and that the she and other tenants would “refuse” to sign the release documents for CPS to turn them over to the CHA, during the public hearing on proposed amendments to the CHA Admissions and Continued Occupancy Policy, at the Charles A. Hayes Family Investment Center, on March 29, 2010. Photo by Mary C. Piemonte


Tenant leaders are threatening to haul the Chicago Housing Authority into court as the agency continues to demand that parents turn over their kids’ school report cards. Robert Whitfield, the attorney representing resident leaders, is advising tenants that the CHA does not have the right to require them to turn over their report cards or face eviction.

“I find nothing in the CHA Residential Lease which would allow CHA and or CHA property managers to evict a resident who refused to provide school documents,” wrote Whitfield in a Sept. 29 e-mail to CHA General Counsel Scott Ammarell. “CHA now intends to impose yet another requirement that will not apply to any other children anywhere in the City of Chicago. And this is supposed to be consistent with CHA’s often stated goal of seeing that CHA residents are not treated differently from other Chicago citizens?”
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Ida B. Wells Revisited

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The last two original CHA Ida B. Wells public housing buildings being demolished in August 2011. Photo by Jacqueline Thompson


From 2007 until quite recently in 2011, two residential buildings stood at 3718 S. Vincennes Ave. waiting for a rumored Ida B. Wells museum to be developed inside the walls. But this summer, the buildings were demolished, the rumors dispelled.

The first preparation to demolish began in July 2011 by encasing the interior and windows of the two unoccupied buildings in plastic in order to dismantle the walls, stairwells and the floors, and keep irritating dust from taking over the surrounding area.
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Charlotte Housing Authority Chief takes CHA Position

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel's choice to head the Chicago Housing Authority, outgoing Charlotte, North Carolina, Housing Authority CEO Charles Woodyard. Photo from Charlotte Housing Authority website.

Carlos Ponce, interim chief of the Chicago Housing Authority is out, and Charles Woodyard, the CEO of the Charlotte Housing Authority since 2002, is in. Woodyard will govern CHA’s family and senior housing stock, and oversee the Plan for Transformation, which calls for 25,000 units of fully rehabilitated or renovated housing by 2015.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced today that Woodyard’s new position begins on October 24, and he added that Ponce will remain as a senior advisor “to help ensure a smooth transition.”

Ponce was put in place after former chief Lewis Jordan resigned after it was discovered that he and other CHA staff members were frivolously using credit cards for things not pertaining to the general operation of the public housing stock.

Emanuel said that Woodyard “has proven management ability and a history of innovation in public housing, and is the right man to lead the CHA to the successful completion of its Plan for Transformation and beyond,” stated Emanuel in a press release. “Throughout his career, Charles has focused on sound financial management and has dedicated himself to providing residents with affordable, sanitary and safe housing. In Charlotte, Charles was able to successfully integrate public housing into communities, a crucial element of Chicago’s Plan for Transformation. He has built strong partnerships with community groups and encouraged private sector investment in public housing, and we look forward to his leadership here in Chicago.”

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Cabrini Row House Tenants Prepare to Fight CHA

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Residents and their supporters protest in the Cabrini-Green Row Houses in June 2010. Photo by Mary C. Piemonte.

Tenants of the Cabrini Green Row-Houses are preparing to battle the Chicago Housing Authority for “reneging” on their promise to rehab all remaining units at the North Side public housing complex.

The final high-rise in Cabrini-Green was demolished this past spring, but 534 low-rise units remain in the complex. In 2008, CHA received approval from the federal government to rehab the row houses. However, only 146 units were rehabbed in 2009, leaving 438 units in disrepair, with a great majority left vacant. Only 33 of those are currently occupied, “creating a 92% vacancy rate,” according to the CHA, which announced late last week that it will not continue rehabilitation and will instead boot out the remaining public housing tenants in the non-rehabbed section of the row houses. CHA claimed that “persistent criminal activity” in the area “forces” them to make the tenants relocate elsewhere.

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Residents’ Journal’s Newly Accessible Online Archives

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Click on the image to view the eighth episode of this season’s “RJ TV,” on August 29, 2011.

Watch Residents’ Journal’s reporter Quintana Woodridge discussing We the People Media’s newly accessible online archives of the news publication for low-income people, with intern Hilary Sharp.

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