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Flannery Homes Update

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As soon as the last issue of RJ came off the press, Flannery had another change of managers. David Kane was removed Sept. 26 and the new Flannery Manager is Donna Jones. She began management duties Oct. 1, 1997.

Marie Colon continues as assistant manager. The maintenance department is headed by maintenance superintendent Larry Calvin; Janitor A is Selvyn Stanicine and Janitor C is Vincent Moore.

Jones introduced herself to building residents at a leaseholders meeting Oct. 1. She discussed continuing building problems. Residents said the elevators in both buildings are consistent problems. On many days, both elevators in one or the other building have been down. Jones said tenants should report elevator problems to the management office immediately. Read more »

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The Mighty Residents of Bromley-Heath

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Here I am in Boston, anticipating to see low-income residents of public housing that have fought for safe, decent, sanitary, affordable housing as well as managing their own dwellings. My thoughts are: what a sight to see!!

As the cab drives along the streets, I see beautiful housing and businesses flourishing everywhere. I wonder: where is this public housing? As we slowly approach the area, I see high rises but they do not look like public housing to me.

As usual, my mind starts to think back on Chicago and the flight toward new mixed income communities. I wonder if I’ll see housing that compares to the idea of mixed-income communities in Chicago – the beautiful architecturally-designed housing with spacious rooms that will serve families with children. This vision is very much different from the housing as we now know it and live in it. A smile instantly comes upon my face – “Ahhh” – just the thought of safe, decent, sanitary housing, as well as quality. “My, oh my.”

But soon, the thoughts and the ideas that were set in my mind would be exploded. In Boston, Mass., I found a reality where quality housing is being carried out and managed by the most delightful residents of the Bromley-Heath Tenant Management Corporation, which is the nation’s oldest tenant management organization.

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CHA and Latinos: Interview with Joe Shuldiner

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From a recent interview with Joseph Shuldiner, executive director of the Chicago Housing Authority:

Question: Mr. Shuldiner, Why has CHA excluded Latinos from the agency?

Answer: Of course when you look at the upper management I think you’re wrong since [the takeover] we had Ana Vargas, who has since left [as Deputy Executive Director of Finance and Administration], Andy Rodriguez, who is the head of Redevelopment, and Raphael Leon, who is president of Chicago Housing Metropolitan Corporation. So when 8 upper management people met, 3 of them were Latinos, which is a much higher percentage than the Hispanic population in public housing in Chicago. So you know I think the issue of service of course is a different one. I think the core of Latinos and combinations of these people have not been reached-out to and not been served by public housing. So this wrong over the years has made them very low users of public housing.

As you know, there is a lawsuit about that by Latinos United. And we basically, as a result of the lawsuit, are working with a variety of Latino groups to do more outreach.

With all the stuff we send to the residents, we now translate it into Spanish for residents. I know there is a lot of things to be done but I think we are trying to reach out.

I can’t speak about the board that was used before the executive advisory committee, which includes a Latino. We also have to work to see more improvement and success in the Section 8 program. And I think that is also more by desire since I think Latinos are more interested in Section 8 than public housing itself.

Question: Does this have something to do with the Latinos United suing the CHA?

Answer: Well, the suit was already here when we got here. So we never had the chance to show what we would have done without the lawsuit.

Question: I know that you have 104,000 applications back. You guys did a wonderful job with so many applications how many have you sent out by now?

Answer: 104,000 applications were submitted [for the re-opening of the Section 8 waiting list] and 82,000 were found to be complete. And the computer randomly selected 35,000. So only 35,000 of those families are on the waiting list. The rest are not and at this time the first 1,000 are being notified to come in.

I don’t know exactly how many can participate later or a couple of months from now. But we now understand that apart from that there is now a separated remedial waiting list for Latinos. So some of the Latino organizations are doing a separate outreach to Latino communities and the Latinos that potentially were excluded from applying in the past. That list is open until the end of the year. That’s a fair window of 6 months that goes until the end of the year. So for Latino families that meet certain criteria, they can continue to apply and be part of a remedial list.

Question: Do you think that scattered sites and Section 8 should have their own board?

Answer: Section 8 do in some sense because generally the C.H.A.C. is their own organization, so we don’t try to tell them how to do it. In the [Northeast scattered sites] their presidents are not just actually presidents of their development, they are presidents of the Lathrop area. So if you are president of Lathrop, that also includes scattered sites of that area, and to me if the C.A.C decided they wanted representation separately, that’s exactly what they can do.

Some changes are a little more difficult [such as Section 8] because the people are nowhere near each other. They don’t necessarily have a lot in common; they have different housing. You know [Section 8] is not owned by us. It will be of much greater difficulty to organize CHA scattered sites or Section 8 residents because they’re all over the place. Sometimes you go to a development and there is a development so you say “Let’s have an election.” There are 17,000 families all over Chicago [in Section 8]. If someone wanted to organize them, they could have their own organization.

There are other organizations that include both. The New Jersey state organization basically exists for public assisted housing but they also actually represent people in Section 8. The issue again is how you outreach to people, because they’re not conveniently located in developments. It’s not like you go to Taylor and you have 3,500 families. You go to this block and you don’t even know who the Section 8 people are and its not clear to me how much of this information we are supposed to make public. What we have to do is we have to send notices to the residents saying here is the person who wants to organize and the tenant has to make contact with them. We will not normally give the name and the addresses within the program because of privacy issues.

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Flannery Homes Update

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The residents of the Senior Twin-Towers Flannery Apartments and the surrounding single-family Town Houses of Orchard Park send out warm greetings to the closely neighboring CHA Cabrini Complex and all CHA communities throughout Chicago. We are still very much in here; alive and kicking, growing our veggies, Bar-B-Queing our slabs and living it up in our Golden Years as we have all our lives, as we have taught all you young ones to follow in our footsteps. Just as the CHA is attempting to bring rapid improvement and change in our important environment, so are we too caught up in striving to upgrade and improve. The Golden Years past retirement are supposedly guaranteed and insured to be forthcoming to us since the New Deal of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration in the 1930s. In reality, we residents of Flannery are not turning the magic page at age 62 into a splendid time of comfort and ease. To the contrary, we are still finding we still have to scrap HARD to get and hold onto what we manage to get. We do indeed welcome the help along the way. The CHA help toward the improvement started with private management in February 1997. Our last quarterly issue of the Residents’ Journal detailed the positive steps which private management began here at Flannery. The phases of improvement are continuing in somewhat dramatic circumstances. On Thursday morning, April 24, a general meeting of all Flannery residents was announced. Those interested residents of both buildings gathered in the community day room of 1507 N. Clybourn where representatives of the CHA announced, “The only people who need to stay for this meeting are the people below the age of 62. All others above age 62 may leave.” The representatives then announced, “You will be moved (all S.S.I. recipients) out of Flannery. You S.S.I. recipients have the option of: 1.) Taking a Section 8 and moving to other residences or 2.) You will be moved to Cabrini Green within 1 month.”

The representatives continued, “Make your decision NOW because you will be out of the two Flannery buildings within 1 month.” Read more »

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Protecting CHA Residents: An Interview with Artensa Randolph

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I recently interviewed Artensa Randolph, who has been the chairperson of the Central Advisory Council for two decades. I talked to Randolph, 81, about H.R. 2, a new congressional bill that would require residents to volunteer 8 hours every month and would make other changes in residents’ lives.

"Under this new regime, these are the worst times that we have ever had. We have no one that really listens to our complaints." -Central Advisory Council President Artensa Randolph (pictured sitting).

“I don’t care for this H.R. 2 at all. We had meetings with some of the congressmen and I felt real elated to have the congressmen come to us. Which was Congressman Danny Davis, Congressman Bobby Rush, and Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.

“The congressmen came to us to explain this H.R. 2. Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. said he was going to add some amendments.”

Randolph said her staff had examined H.R. 2 and also did not like it. Randolph said that we residents have been volunteers all of our life.

“I don’t know what they mean about volunteering,” Randolph said. “They will not take me back into slavery. We couldn’t do anything, but do what – I hate to say it – the white folks told us to do but that day is out.

“I’m not going backwards and to volunteer to live in public housing, and we don’t have the luxury or anything that we need or want. Then they have people working in public housing.”

Randolph also was worried about what will happen to CHA employees.

“Then what will we do, knock them out of their jobs. Then everyone will be homeless and I’m not going to do it. If the residents want to follow me, we are not going to volunteer because I don’t have to stay here. That’s nothing more than a sophisticated depression and I’m not going for it.

Randolph said there are many role models in public housing, including Henry Horner Local Advisory Council President Mamie Bone, former Ida B. Wells LAC President Helen Finner and ABLA LAC President Deverra Beverly. 1971. Randolph said these role models and many other residents already volunteer much of their time but it would be wrong to force them to volunteer.

“They can’t make me get up and volunteer doing the people’s jobs that they have hired. I’m not going over there taking people’s jobs.

“So I’ll volunteer on my own time. Whatever I want to do, but they can’t make me do anything.”

“About the jobs for this program, no one has come out and said this is what we want you to volunteer for.”

Randolph said she’s very happy with the confidence residents have in her and the CAC. But Randolph said she was upset with the current heads of CHA, who took over the agency in 1995.

“Under this new regime, these are the worst times that we have ever had. We have no one that really listens to our complaints.”

Randolph said she wants a new board of commissioners. The old board oversaw the operations of CHA but was dissolved before the current regime came in.

“We don’t have anyone to go to and help us resolve some of these problems. So this is what I’m fighting for is to get a commissioners board back. When this happens, I’m going to resign and go into something else.

Randolph does sit on the Executive Advisory Council but she feels it doesn’t really help residents.

“We do have what we call an Advisory Council….but this Advisory Council to me, and I say it all the time, it’s for the birds.”

Randolph blamed the mayor for not stepping in to stop the board of commissioners from being dissolved.

“I don’t know what happened to Mayor Daley. I don’t know what he’s afraid of for he has not come out like he should.”

I asked Randolph whether there was any affordable housing available for residents displaced by demolition.

“About the affordable housing, today they say one thing and tomorrow it’s another.

“(Former CHA Executive Director) Vince Lane said that some of the developments have got to come down. But the only thing I hate is there won’t be any replacement housing and this is what I’m fighting for. But it seems like some of the members of the Central Advisory Council have forgotten what he (Vince Lane) said to the council.

“Sometimes, they (CHA and the residents) just let the buildings run down. They had a foresight; they didn’t try to do anything to fix them up. So they had to get in bad condition and then they tell me so much money…was needed to do the units. But I don’t know if it’s true or not. No one has come to me to say this is how much money it takes to do a unit. So now they’re tearing down but not rebuilding.

“Mr. Lane said that there is land all around where you could build these homes and then let the people move in, then demolish where you were living, because everyone wants to remain in their own neighborhood. No one wants to go out in the suburbs where the water is destroying everything.

“They think that we don’t have sense enough to see all of this but they want to put us out there. No one wants us out there so I don’t feel comfortable going where I’m not wanted.

“Affordable housing is our right. Some people think we live here and don’t pay any rent. We’re paying our just dues. While living in public housing, it should be decent and sanitary and a safe place to live. It was when they were just built in 1937 but now it’s different. It’s not safe, it’s not decent, It’s just a place to live.

Again I say it’s not like it used to be but through the years, I don’t know what happened.

In general, Randolph said conditions are worse for residents than in the past.

“It’s bad living for us now. We’re afraid for our lives. We don’t have enough security. Gangs have just taken over but I remember when Mayor Daley was the (Cook County) state’s attorney. We met with him and he said, ‘You all better get yourselves together because eventually the gangs are going to take over your apartment.’”

“We never heard that so we just didn’t believe him (Mayor Daley) but I swear he told the truth. Gangs have just taken over. Senior housing and family but it’s more in family housing but I don’t think that senior housing has enough security. They are still cutting back. So it will be only one security officer for two buildings.”

Randolph doesn’t agree with H.R. 2 and she is really trying to protect the residents.

First Strike--The wrecking ball knocked the first bricks out of the Robert Taylor Himes on May 23, when CHA started the demolition of the 16-story building at 3919 S. Federal St. The building had been vacant for almost a year. CHA sas not yet determined what will be built on the site.

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LeClaire Courts

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Once the crown jewel of the nation’s resident-managed public housing developments, LeClaire Courts was recently taken over by CHA. Agency officials accused employees of the resident managers of taking advantage of a new board. While the fall-out of that action continues, writer Andre Robinson recalls the LeClaire Courts of his youth.

The year is 1950. World War 11 is five years out of our system. The Korean War is building, Harry S. Truman is serving his first full term as President of the United States. Martin Kennelly is Mayor of Chicago and Chicago’s Midway Airport is the world’s busiest airport. One and one half miles north on Cicero Avenue from Midway Airport, between 42nd and 44th streets in a heavy-industrial area, is a patch of land that is causing controversy at City Hall between the mayor and aldermen of that district. The reason is the Chicago Housing Authority purchased that land to build low-income housing. Read more »

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