Transforming CHA: Federal Housing Voucher Woes

by  Assistant Editor

Mary Sistruck is a young single mother of 6 who moved out of the Robert Taylor development over 4 years ago and now lives in an apartment at 90th Street and Exchange Avenue with a Housing Choice (Section 8) voucher. Sistruck used to reside in what most of the residents called the “Hole,” a cluster of Chicago Housing Authority buildings in the 5300 block of the State Street corridors that have since been demolished.

Sistruck, who was a resident since the tender age of 16, moved out at age 25. She told RJ she wished she had never moved from Robert Taylor.

“Since I moved out into the private market, it has been one headache after another,” Sistruck said. “It is like riding a mental roller coaster. The constant moving every year has got me going up and down, leave me wondering where will me and my family end up.

Sistruck continued, “Since I moved out of Robert Taylor with my Housing Choice Section 8 Voucher, I have been constantly moving year after year. I have moved three times in 4 years and am on the verge of moving again. “My children have been to 6 different schools. My daughter use to be an ‘A’ student but not any more. Her grades are lagging severely behind.

“I used to live on 46th Street for almost a year. That place was nice until it burned down to the ground. That was the house you saw on the news a while back. Thats what lead me to 90th and South Exchange.

“When my children and I got here, we thought that it was great. At least the place where I reside is great. But as soon as we got very comfortable, we found out that the building has a lot of code violations. Since the time that we moved in this building, everybody in the building has been to eviction court twice.

“We received our eviction papers back in September 2000, the same time I received my CHAC moving papers. Since that time, I have looked at 75 apartments and spent over $325 for application fees. I haven’t been able to secure housing since mid-September 2000.

Maybe it is because I have a large family or since the city has given out so many Section 8 vouchers, the housing just isnt out there any more.

“I don’t know. I can’t sleep. I can’t eat. All I seem to think about and fear is my family becoming homeless.” Sistruck’s landlord could not be reached for comment so I telephoned CHA Section 8 officials. I explained to a CHA official who asked not to be identified that this young lady is a former resident of Robert Taylor Homes is being forced to move due to code violations in the building that she now reside in. I went on to explain that this young lady had been looking for an apartment since mid-September and she had a large family. I asked the official, “If the voucher runs out, will CHAC (the private company contracted to manage the Voucher program) renew it?

The CHA official said Sistrucks CHAC moving papers will be valid until March 24. The official said that if Sistruck cannot find a place between now and then, she would have to ask CHAC for an extension.

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