There’s H.O.P.E. for Gary Residents

by  Assistant Editor

RJ recently learned about a $19 million H.O.P.E. VI grant our neighbors to the south at the Gary Indiana Housing Authority received from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in 1999. The housing authority is using the grant to replace the Duneland Village public housing development with a new mixed income community.

So one day in late January, we drove over the slushy, potholed streets of Chicago to Gary, in hot pursuit of a story about housing being built that might be beneficial to the poor.

In case you are wondering what H.O.P.E. VI is, let me enlighten you. It is a HUD-funded program to turn old, dilapidated public housing units into mixed-income developments. This means that public housing units in H.O.P.E. VI developments will be mixed and stirred into the community with unsubsidized units and non-public housing subsidized units, like a baked cake with three different favors.

On the way to Gary, we couldn’t help but smell the old, familiar odors that accumulated during the years when Gary housed many steel mill plants. Plus we couldn’t help but notice the electric power lines that towered over the toll road.

Gary, a poor, largely African American city, has buildings, stores, and private dwellings alike that have been abandoned and are decaying. One church close to downtown even had trees sprouting out from where the pews used to hold Sunday worshippers. A tall hotel that looked like once it was thriving now stands empty in the heart of downtown.

Joseph Shuldiner, of Shuldiner and Associates, was our host and tour guide on the dreary, gray day we visited Gary. Shuldiner and Associates had been contracted by HUD to build and oversee the H.O.P.E. VI project in Gary.

You might remember Joseph Shuldiner from the days when he was the CEO of Chicago Housing Authority when the federal government had control over CHA.

Shudliner came down out of his warm office to greet us at the front door, which was a welcome and sunny sight to see. Once upstairs, Joseph explained to RJ what his job as a Program Manager consists of.

“What I do as a program manager is I act as a technical consultant to the authority and a facilitator,” Shuldiner said.

RJ asked him if the Gary Housing Authority is similar to the Chicago Housing Authority.

“No, Gary has no family high rises, the only high rises are for seniors. Plus Chicago is a lot larger,” Shuldiner said. “Chicago has distressed housing in a thriving city.”

Shulidner talked about the Duneland Village. “The Duneland is the first mixed-income, mixed-finance rental phrase of the Duneland Village/Horace Mann H.O.P.E. VI redevelopment project,” he said.

Duneland Village, is located in the Miller neighborhood of Gary, Ind. The development is a H.O.P.E. VI project made up of 131 rental units, 49 of which are funded by public housing and low-income tax cedits. Photo by Micah Maidenberg

“The new housing is located on the land where the original public housing sites were located,” Shuldiner went on to say. “The new housing is in the Miller community of Gary. It is comprised of 131 rental units, 49 of which are public housing tax credit units, 49 are only tax credit, and 33 are market rate. There is a mixture of one, two, three and four bedrooms units.”

And in October 2004, occupancy began and is projected to be completed and rented up by February 2005.

RJ asked Karen Morgan, one of the first residents from public housing who relocated back into the new housing in Duneland Village what she thought of her new home.

“I‘m very satisfied with my new housing,” Morgan said. “We have all the amenities, such as a washing machine and a dryer and plenty of cabinet space. I’m very pleased, plus I want to give a shout out to everybody that made it possible for me to have this new place. It’s like having my own house. Thank you all!” Morgan added.

H.O.P.E.VI Coordinator Denise Eligan, who is also a resident of Gary told RJ that residents received great benefits from the HOPE VI project.

“Many of our residents received their GED, jobs and training and housing though the Gary H.O.P.E. VI project,” Eligan said.

“I feel that our residents should benefit from these programs economically as well as professionally. They may not have the skills but they do have the ingenuity,” Eligan added.

Eligan pointed to a young woman who came into the office.“

This is Patricia Rimey who is a public housing resident that benefited from the HOPE VI project. We trained her and now she works for the Gary Housing Authority as my assistant,” Eligan went on to say, thereby letting RJ know that Gary respected Section 3 laws that stipulate public housing residents must be hired when new construction comes to their communities.

Shuldiner took us on a little tour of Gary where we saw with our own eyes the beautifully constructed housing that had been built. Duneland Village is made of two-flats homes with one family above and one below. There are new playgrounds for the children and sidewalks being built where there used to just be mud.

We all know that in Chicago to receive replacement housing or keep the apartments that many residents occupy in the developments, CHA has very strict criteria, including urinalysis and mandatory volunteer work for 30 hours a week.

RJ wanted to know if Gary had the same type of criteria for their public housing residents in order for them to return to the original sites and into the new housing.

“No, all we are asking is that the resident that had been displaced be in good standing with Gary Housing Authority,” Shuldiner said.

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