Thomas Sullivan Report Update

by  Assistant Editor

The problems with the city’s ongoing, ambitious plan to transform its public housing are weighing heavily on the city’s so-called “Big Shoulders.” The Chicago Housing Authority is trying to lift some of that burden by implementing some of the recommendations made by Thomas Sullivan, the independent monitor of the transformation process.

Last year, Sullivan, a former U.S. attorney, analyzed Phase II of the CHA Plan for Transformation and presented his results to the CHA and the Central Advisory Council. In a report which hit the Windy City like a tornado, Sullivan found that residents with Housing Choice Vouchers are moving into predominately African American areas that have a high concentration of poverty. Sullivan reported that some residents moved into CHA temporary replacement units in “deplorable” conditions. Sullivan observed the presence of gangs and drug dealers in many of the developments into which people are being moved.

For those that moved into the private market, mobility counselors didn’t provide tenants with information to move into ‘opportunity areas’ – neighborhoods and suburbs with access to good transportation, schools, jobs and other resources. Sullivan also reported that the CHA Service Connector, a program that is supposed to benefit residents with opportunities, is not making connections for tenants with resources such as drug rehabilitation, job training, day care and education.

Sullivan made a number of recommendations that CHA officials say they are taking to heart. Sullivan made recommendations concerning the CHA relocation process to make sure that the process runs smoother for the residents. I called CHA spokesperson Kathryn Greenberg to see what recommendations the agency kept or threw away concerning the relocation process.

“There are many recommendations that Sullivan made that we took into consideration, such as the timing in which a resident is moved, and also the make- ready units,” Greenberg said. “When it comes to the Tom Sullivan report, we have worked closely with Sullivan and with the CAC concerning the 54 recommendations and we plan on implementing at least 60 percent of them we agree with.”

I called Sullivan concerning what he thinks about CHA taking his recommendations to heart. Sullivan said he was “happy” that CHA is considering his recommendations concerning relocation.

The CHA board of commissioners approved in May an eight-month, $520,000 contract with Sullivan to monitor Phase III of the Plan for Transformation. At press date, however, CHA had not released Sullivan’s scope of work, what his tasks will be and into what he will be slicing.

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