Friday, June 25, 2010

Media: Eviction Halted at CHA Senior Building

Frank Edwards - June 25, 2011 - AREA Chicago

The management at Lake Michigan Apartments told Willett Brown that she'd have to get out of her apartment today, June 25th, or they would put her out.  Willett had been caring for her mother, a long-time resident of Lake Michigan Apartments for 22 years.  Two days after her funeral, management told her she was being evicted.  However, after refusing to keep this intimidation behind closed doors by appealing to Chicago Housing Authority and elected officials (PDF) and organizing a press conference in partnership with Southside Together Organizing for Power, the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, and the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign, Willett won a reprieve and the eviction has been postponed.
Willett Brown Protesting Eviction
Willett Brown speaking out against attempted eviction Frank Edwards
 After calling the press conference, Willett negotiated a three week reprieve to locate alternative housing before legal procedures to evict her could proceed.  Following this reprieve, she will have the opportunity to challenge to eviction in court.  

Carole Folkes, a neighbor of Ms. Brown suggested that management's behavior was morally reprehensible, and that more people should follow Willett's example of dedicating herself to caring for her ailing mother.  She argued forcefully that Ms. Brown had the respect of the Lake Michigan Apartments' community, saying "We are family.  Management might not be part of that family though."
Carole Folkes speaking in support of Willett Brown
Carole Folkes speaking in support of Willett Brown Frank Edwards
Lake Michigan Apartments is managed by the Woodlawn Community Development Corporation, the "umbrella for T.W.O.’s [The Woodlawn Organization] real estate development and management activities".  TWO has come under increasing criticism for becoming too cozy with the University of Chicago and associated efforts to gentrify the Woodlawn community.  TWO president Leon Finney Jr has also been attacked for his very cozy relationship with city hall, and his failure to properly maintain properties under TWO's management, including charges that he is operating as a slumlord

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Politically-connected management company threatens to make grieving and disabled woman homeless

Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign Press Release
June 24th, 2011
What: Press conference by grieving woman facing illegal eviction 
When: Friday June 24th - 1pm 
Where: Lake Michigan Apartments - 4227 S. Oakenwald

When Willett Brown went to her management office to tell them about her mother's funeral arrangements she was offered homelessness instead of condolences. For four years Willett lived with her mother, Stacy Passmore as her live-in caregiver at Lake Michigan Apartments, a CHA senior citizen building managed by politically-connected and landlord Woodlawn Community Development Corporation. While she was well-liked by residents of the building, whom she often helps with errands, groceries, etc., she was never liked by management because she reported them to the department of health for not taking adequate care of a bed bug infestation. When her mother passed on May 25th of this year, management couldn't wait to tell her to get out.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

CHA axes 30-day move out date for Cabrini building

By MEGAN COTTRELL, True/Slant (full story here)

Residents of 1230 N. Larrabee can stay in their homes – for now.

The Chicago Housing Authority has rescinded its order for 31 Cabrini-Green families to move out within 30 days in response to legal pressure from tenant lawyers and District Court judge William Hibbler.

All of Cabrini-Green’s development and demolition is governed by a legal agreement between the tenant council and their lawyers and the housing authority. The tenant council petitioned the judge, saying that the 30-day notice the CHA issued to residents in mid-May violated their agreements about how residents would move out.

Why? Well, according to motions put forth by the tenant’s lawyers, last fall, the CHA proposed closing down all four remaining Cabrini buildings the usual way – by giving residents 180 days to move out. But when the tenant leaders objected, it was decided that relocation would be voluntary – that CHA would give residents the option to move out if they wanted to.

So CHA seemed to find a new way to close the buildings instead – emergency closings.

“The CHA acted in bad faith when it failed to disclose to the LAC that the expected decrease in occupancy would automatically generate ‘emergency’ vacate notices, with no notice to the LAC,” reads the tenant council’s motion to Judge Hibbler.

“One can only assume that CHA’s push to negotiate a voluntary relocation plan with the LAC was intended to lay the groundwork to later justify its issuance of its ‘emergency’ vacate notices.”

As I’ve said before, it’s not an emergency if you plan for it. It’s happened time and again: you ask people to move out, so less and less people live in the building, and then all of the sudden – whoops! – emergency, we’ve got to close it down.

Of course, CHA has a tough job here. They’re the middleman between the present and the past. In order to build new replacement public housing units, they have to sell the condos that will sit next door. And, quite frankly, there’s a limit to the number of rich white folks that want to live next to a deteriorating public housing high rise filled with poor black folks. That may not be nice, but it’s the truth.

But emergency closings are not the answer. Why not at least consolidate buildings until replacement housing is built, like was done at Henry Horner? Emergency closings also violate the Relocation Rights Contract that governs all of Chicago’s public housing transformation. It allows for 180 day moves, and only emergency relocation in the case of unexpected problems – like flooding or fire damage. Not the slow accumulation of a problem over a year.

But even residents don’t have to move before the end of the month, 1230 N. Larrabee won’t be with us for much longer.

The CHA’s notice to residents tells them while they don’t have to move, they still can move if they’d like to.

“In making this decision, please consider the fact that it is likely that as a result of the current conditions, the low occupancy and the negative activity at the building, the building will close in the not too distant future.”

The writing’s on the wall for Cabrini-Green, that’s for sure. What’s left to be seen is who will prevail – the Chicago Housing Authority, who wants that end to come soon, or the residents, who are still hanging on.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Cabrini residents fight building closing: ‘They want this neighborhood. It’s gold’

Cabrini residents fight building closing: ‘They want this neighborhood. It’s gold’
By MEGAN COTTRELL, True/Slant (original story here)

Dirreatha Smith, 39, gazes down the hall of her home at 1230 N. Larrabee in Cabrini-Green.

It’s not a particularly good time for Dirreatha Smith to move. This month, her oldest daughter graduates from high school, the middle one goes to prom, and the next finishes eighth grade. How do you plan a party when you’ve got 30 days to move out of your home of 18 years?

But that’s what Smith has to do. The Chicago Housing Authority has announced it’s closing her building in Cabrini-Green, 1230 N. Larrabee. She moves in just 5 days – hardly enough time to pack up a whole life’s worth of memories.

“It was a total surprise, not just to me, but to a lot of folks,” she says. “I’m upset. Who can pack in 30 days?”

Smith has lived on this block of Cabrini-Green, part of the complex dubbed “the whites” for it’s tall, pale buildings, for her entire life. When she thinks of this building, she thinks of the parties they used to have in the recreation room for Christmas and Halloween, and summer trips to Kings Island for neighborhood kids.

Luckily, Smith doesn’t have to leave the neighborhood. She’s been offered a space in the rowhouses, just a few blocks away. But after those close too, as all of Cabrini inevitably will, Smith doesn’t know whether she’ll continue to call this neighborhood home. She works as a janitor nearby, and while the salary she brings home isn’t huge for single mother with four kids – $43,000 a year – it’s too much for her to qualify for a unit in the newly built replacement housing in the mixed-income neighborhoods.

1230 N. Larrabee, which sits at the intersection of Division and Larrabee, is one of two highrises left at Cabrini

She worries about leaving the near North side and having to move to a neighborhood where she can afford the rent, but will have to deal with gang activity and violence. Every family she’s known that’s left Cabrini has ended up losing someone in their family to a shooting.

Well, isn’t there violence in this building? I ask. After all, CHA says they’re closing the building due to low occupancy and increased drug arrests.

She laughs. “Here? Maybe 15 years ago. It was bad then. But now, it’s coming up.”

There’s 31 families left in her building, a number that’s been dwindling down for awhile. She says she’s seen housing staff coming around with relocation materials, offering $200 gift cards to families that voluntarily relocate. She says she’s not foolish enough to fall for a deal like that – a home in a neighborhood she knows and where she has a job is worth way more than $200 – but many young, single moms aren’t so thoughtful.

“Our neighborhood is close to downtown. You can walk to the beach, to the zoo. Everything is right here,” she says. “Why would I want to leave?”

But unless the Chicago Anti-Eviction campaign can stop the CHA from closing 1230 N. Larrabee, it seems that Smith will leave her familiar unit by the end of this week. She hopes it isn’t a sign of things to come.

“If they can make a way for me to come back here, I will come back. I hope so.”

The Chicago Housing Authority did not respond to questions on this story.