In November, more than 100 people gathered at the New Life Community Church of West Lakeview near the Julia C. Lathrop Homes to kick off the planning for the public housing development’s future. The Chicago Housing Authority has billed this effort as unique in the history of its Plan for Transformation, a 12-year effort to change its developments into mixed-income communities. Instead of its typical practice of soliciting proposals from developers and then presenting the winning design as a done deal, the agency had hired a developer to create a plan with residents’ input. The message from Lathrop residents and many advocates at that first meeting was clear: Steer clear of building market-rate units. “We need more public housing for the people at the low-income end of the spectrum,” said Robert Davidson, president of the Lathrop Homes Local Advisory Council, a group elected by residents.
Two of every three residents surveyed this spring at the Robert Taylor Homes on Chicago’s South Side oppose the Chicago Housing Authority’s proposal to demolish the development and move some tenants into the private housing market with federal Section 8 subsidies, The Chicago Reporter has learned. The Reporter’s analysis of preliminary results for April and May show that 68 percent of 193 Taylor families did not rank Section 8 among their top three housing options. The survey was conducted by Taylor residents and the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Nathalie P. Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement, a research group that studies public housing redevelopment. The results sharply contrast with two previous CHA surveys. In the first, 85 percent of families requested Section 8, a program that subsidizes private market rents for low-income families, said Wanda White, assistant executive director for the agency’s Office of Programs. White described the results at a March 26 town hall meeting for public housing residents living along South State Street.
‘They want to get us out of here,” said Lisa Mayo. The 40-year-old mother of five was looking north from 47th Street toward one of the last high-rises at the Chicago Housing Authority’s Robert Taylor Homes—the building she has lived in her entire life. It is slated to be torn down this year, and, although replacement homes for the vanished buildings are going up right around the corner, Mayo, like many, doesn’t believe the new apartments are for her or her neighbors. “I would love to come back,” added Mayo. She feels she will be kept out since the new communities will have strict requirements, including one that requires most returning residents to work 30 hours a week.
When Algie Crivens III was released from prison in 1999, he thought his nearly decade-long nightmare had ended. After he was convicted of a 1989 murder, a judge sentenced Crivens to 20 years in prison. But, in 1999, a federal court ruled Cook County prosecutors had withheld evidence in his 1992 trial; Crivens was retried in 2000 and found not guilty. Former Gov. George H. Ryan later pardoned him. Crivens had expected to get a head start on others released from prison—roughly 30,000 each year in Illinois.
A year after its launch, city officials are still struggling to define and implement an ambitious program to help public housing tenants get jobs and social services. More than 1,200 residents were placed in jobs by Aug. 31, but many were in low-paying, high-turnover industries, The Chicago Reporter has found. City officials don’t know how many remain employed. As thousands of residents are dispersed by the Chicago Housing Authority’s high-rise demolition and reconstruction plan, officials say helping those families will get harder in the coming year and require that they continually shift tactics to keep track of residents.