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Residents Call on CHA to Open Units

[Posted 9-8-05, Updated 9-14-05]

CHA is offering 500 units to house up to 1,000 seniors displaced by Hurricane Katrina, but public housing residents are calling on the authority to do more.

In response to calls by resident leaders at several developments to open units for displaced families, Kim Johnson of CHA said that “CHA feels that it would be disrespectful to families who have suffered so much loss to place them in dilapidated public housing units that are slated for demolition.”

Cabrini leader Carol Steele say there are scores of newly rehabbed units among 1,200 vacant apartments there, and many more could be made habitable with as little as a day’s worth of rehab. Resident groups at Cabrini have offered volunteers to help prepare apartments for displaced families, said Deidre Brewster of the Coalition to Protect Public Housing.

“We have family members coming from Louisiana, and we have vacant rehabbed units and we want to offer family units to families that want to stay here,” Brewster said. Public housing in New Orleans has been inundated in the storm and subsequent flooding.

Lathrop Homes residents and supporters including members of the Logan Square Neighborhood Association and the Church of Good News were organizing fix-up crews and collecting donations of furniture, clothing, food and money after learning that CHA was planning to offer units there to displaced families, said Tami Love of LSNA. Three-fourths of the low-rise development at Clybourn and Damen are vacant. Days later the decision to offer the units was withdrawn, according to Rev. Edie Lenz of the Church of Good News.

In a September 13 letter to the Sun-Times, leaders of Rockwell Gardens reported that the resident management company there has more than 30 recently-renovated family units available for evacuees, and urged the CHA “to promptly begin planning so that those made homeless by the hurricane no longer have to suffer in temporary shelters.”

CHA subsequently informed the leaders “they’re not going to release the units,” said Peggy Godfrey of the Wardell Yotaghan Resident Management Corp. at Rockwell Gardens.

Governors in the Midwest have reportedly been asked to prepare for more than 30,000 refugees from the hurricane. Nationwide there are an estimated 1 million people displaced by the storm.

In the Chicago area, many displaced families are currently being moved into suburban mental health facilities. In the city, displaced families are being housed in homeless shelters.

Meanwhile, HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson called on public housing authorities to assist evacuees.

“We have had a number of public housing authorities nationwide, from as far away as Ohio and Pennsylvania, step up to this challenge and immediately start making all their vacant units accessible for displaced families,” said Jackson.

“We will be working with all the PHAs around the clock to help restore that sense of security a family has when there is a roof over their head.”

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Category: Hurricane Katrina, public housing


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