Transforming CHA: One Strike Woes

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As a resident of the Chicago Housing Authority, I am all for redevelopment and I am sure most residents are. I also would like to say that most of the new private managers are really trying to work with residents. But when it comes to the One Strike issue and lease compliance, I and other residents I’ve talked with feel this policy hurts some residents who really want a better life for the residents of CHA and to be rid of drugs and gangs.

Many residents are questioning the One Strike policy (see article, page 6), especially the part where the leaseholder is responsible for his/her visitors’ and family members’ actions.

I have felt the pressure of this situation after having custody of a teenage youth whose whereabouts I cannot know 24 hours a day. I could only try to tell him about right from wrong, especially having dealt with the problem of drugs myself. Like many residents, I am trying to make a better life for myself and would hope he and other teens could see this.

But this teenager didn’t see that I wanted improvement in both of our lives. One day, he was arrested on the West Side in one of the CHA developments when he was supposed to be in school for possession of a controlled substance. I was called into the management office and told that with him on my lease, I could be in violation of my lease. So I had to call the Department of Children and Family Services to come and take him away from my home so I would not fall under the One Strike.

I thought I had problems when that incident happened to me. But I was in the Metropolitan Legal Assistance office of Chicago recently and had a conversation with a woman. It turned out that she’s a grandparent and has been a CHA resident for the past 17 years. But now she was trouble because of her oldest grandson and doesn’t know what her fate would be.

This grandmother said she never had been in any kind of trouble with the authority before and had five other grandchildren to raise. She was really in a bad state because she just received an eviction order from management. The police stopped her grandson on his way home from school while he was standing outside of their building. The police searched him and his friends and then found some illegal drugs in the doorway nearby. No one wanted to admit to whom the drugs belonged so the police gave the drugs to this lady’s grandson and he was charged with possession. Later, when his grandmother went to take her rent to the management office, she said they wouldn’t accept her money because her case had been sent to the legal department.

But what really shocked her was that there were raids at the same development where she lives and that some of the people who were arrested for selling drugs to an undercover police officer have been returned to the development under house arrest. Their arrests should be considered a lease violation. How is this possible?

Many residents are wondering: is One Strike for everyone? It seems this policy is being unfairly applied. If CHA continues to carry out this policy, there really will be a lot more homeless people in the city. Many of these evicted residents will be taking the blame for others’ wrongdoing because of this policy. It just does not seem fair to the lease-holder, especially when you have some of these parents and grand parents who have really worked hard in their development or community and cannot afford to go out and pay market rent.

Is there something that can be done to help these residents who are not the victims of crime but are victims of the system?

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