CHA gets an earful at public comment session

Alexandrea Navedo, 19, walked up to the Chicago Housing Authority's top official and showed him a picture in her wallet of her young son and daughter.

"This right here is what you're displacing," she says to Chief Executive Officer Lewis Jordan. "This is what has no home."

Navedo spoke Tuesday evening during a meeting held by the housing agency to allow people to comment on proposed changes to the Moving to Work program,  which governs many aspects of life in the city's public housing.

Many residents and housing advocates worry the proposed changes will have far-reaching, detrimental effects on residents' lives.

A crowd of roughly 200 people attended to decry changes regarding work requirements and resident representation, as well as other purported agency failings outside the meeting's immediate scope. Navedo's comments matched the tone of the meeting: personal, angry and righteous.

"We're getting the runaround here."

"Someone else is getting paid."

"What is wrong with you people?"

There were yells, there were cheers, there were repeated invocations of the power of the people. There were quiet, tense conversations between CHA officials and people refusing to surrender the microphone, and with people who decided they didn't need a microphone, only strong lungs.

Speakers voiced their thoughts with the force and anger of people who feel no one has listened to them.

The agency will provide transcripts of the meeting and will respond in writing to individual remarks within 30 days, said CHA spokesman Bryan Zises. The public can continue to submit comments in writing until March 28.

"We received comments," Zises says. "We're going to do what we're supposed to do with them. (The Moving to Work agreement) is HUD's document."

Actually, the idea that HUD and not the CHA wants to change the Moving to Work agreement is "completely false," said Richard Wheelock, an attorney for the Central Advisory Council, which represents all tenants.

HUD does use boilerplate language in the agreement's first three sections to impose uniformity upon the housing agencies participating in its Moving to Work program, Wheelock says. The program allows housing agencies to request waivers of federal law in order to do what they think is necessary to improve public housing in their cities.

The Moving to Work agreement allows the CHA to avoid meeting federal requirements that would stand in the way of the agency's $1.6 billion Plan for Transformation.

The agreement's fifth section, which garnered the most complaints at Tuesday's meeting, contains the waivers the CHA is requesting from HUD.

"The whole point of the MTW program is to give the housing authority what it needs, not for HUD in Washington to dictate what it needs," he says.

Residents' dissatisfaction with new CHA work requirements surfaced repeatedly at Tuesday's meeting. The agency plans to impose the requirements on all residents, regardless of whether they live in mixed-income communities or traditional public housing.

Every adult between 18 and 62 will need to work or train for work at least 15 hours a week starting in July. The only exceptions are for the disabled, their caretakers, the retired, single parents with children younger than one year and primary caretakers with children younger than 13 - provided another adult in the household is working.

Those who don't comply face eviction.

Dora Delaola, who uses a housing voucher, says she had no problem with working, but she wanted a job that made allowances for her family's health problems. She is scheduled for kidney stone surgery and also has an 8-year-old son with coffin siris syndrome. She worries employers will punish her for missing days because of illness.

"Just find me something where if I don't feel good they're not going to fire me," she says.

Robert Whitfield, another attorney for the CAC, said the council does not oppose the work requirements, but the CHA should proceed slowly and make more allowances for parents who need child care.

He also questioned the CHA's determination to plow ahead with the requirements even as the U.S. Labor Department reports the economy has lost 80,000 jobs in the last two months.

Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) addressed the same subject, saying he'd talked with well-schooled job candidates who'd had trouble finding work too.

"If people with Ph.Ds can't find a job, how do you think people without education can find jobs?" he asked.

Many others voiced concern over the prospect of a single, CHA-appointed ombudsman addressing the problems of residents in mixed-income communities rather than elected Local Advisory Councils, which have represented residents for more than 35 years.

The ombudsman would hold at least two meetings a year and write responses to questions and complaints at least 20 hours a week. But some questioned whether an employee paid by the housing agency could truly stand up for residents.

"It's the equivalent of having a union shop run by the employer," Wheelock says.

Discuss

TNB, 03-16-2008

Human beings work to pay their rent. Why shouldn't negroes?

PEARLGIRL, 03-14-2008

Those filthy parasitic VERMIN are NOT entitled to scrounge off the functioning members of society. Where the HELL do they get off?

They don't want to work (even 15 hours a week ) - the nSTARVE. DIE you god-damned VERMMIN. That goes for your worthless parasitic hijos, too. DIE.

CHRIS B, 03-15-2008

More lazy negroes. No work, gimme, gimme, gimme. Typical, expected responses.

WHITEY, 03-15-2008

Since 1 exemption is having a child under 1 year old,these nappy head hos will be pumping them out every 9 months

GOBACKTOAFRICA, 03-15-2008

Typical entitlement attitude that blacks have these days. Always trying to get something for free.

RANDE, 03-15-2008

Simple, have those who won't work sterilized to prevent more children, then take the children in their custody to a government facility and allow the parent parasite to stave to death. Those who go on welfare for more than 6 months will also be sterilized as a condition to government handouts.

EVIL YT, 03-16-2008

15 hours a week? I know people that work 15 hours / day. You know what this is? This is the beginning of a white backlash against 4 or 5 generations of monkeyshines. Enough is enough. Admit it, you are a failed race incapable of providing any useful purpose beyond shoveling manure or picking up trash. Maybe if Diesel gets to expensive, you MIGHT find work picking cotton again. Beyond that, give it up coons.

PEARLGIRL, 03-16-2008

Excellent. Looks like YT has finally had enough. We are tired of working ourselves to the bone, in order to provide "Gubmint" goodies for this worthless, parasitic, subhuman GARBAGE. Our cities and towns are being overwhelmed, and wrecked, by this walking, worthless offal. The faster they SH!TSKINS die off - the better for actual Humans.

HERR GROOBEE, 03-16-2008

Work 15hours a week? Lawd haf merrsey!

GEOFF DOUGHERTY (THE EDITOR), 03-17-2008

As you'll quickly discover by reading through this comment thread, it includes some incredibly offensive racist language.

I'd planned on removing the offending posts. But a news organization's task is to hold a mirror up to the community it serves. Taking a look in this one is a reminder that Chicago has a long, long way to go in terms of eradicating prejudice.

FROMWEMBLEYPARK.TYPEPAD.COM, 03-17-2008

What contempt these freeloaders have. This kind of reform is long overdue. I hope it's just a first step. It's bad that America supports parasites like these, but then to have to put up with their attitudes. And by the way it is not racist to expect people to work for a living.

JSMITH, 03-17-2008

I've never seen such racist hate-mongering. Do the writers of these comments really believe what they are writing, or are they just adolescents trying to stir up trouble? If it's the latter, their parents ought to impose appropriate punishment on their hind ends. Then, they should have to copy by pen or pencil the works of Frederick Douglass, at least until their hands cramp up and they can't write one more word. If it's adults writing these racist statements, all I can do is pray for a forgiving God.

SICKNTIRED, 03-17-2008

Give me an ever-lovin' break!!! You slobs DARE to whine about working fifteen hours a week? Most teenagers work more than that! It is not unreasonable to expect welfare recipients to actually DO SOMETHING to earn their bread and beans like the rest of us.

JSMITH - before you decry all the 'racism', try living in or next to an all-black 'project' for about 2-3 years. If you survive your lofty ideals and your opinion of black people will NEVER be the same.

CHARLIE BROWN, 03-17-2008

Three hours a day, five days a week. And this is too much?

"Good grief!!!"

I FIND IT HILARIOUS..., 03-18-2008

that some of their ancestors worked sunup to sundown in menial factory jobs or as slaves, and yet *three flipping hours a day* brings a heated response.
Note to all welfare recipients: your grandparents would have been floored to have the guaranteed food and health care that only welfare people get for three hours a day. They worked like dogs for little or no guarantee that they'd even have food for next month.

GEOFF DOUGHERTY (THE EDITOR), 03-18-2008

JSMITH, I agree with you. Unfortunately I think most of the posters are adults who ought to know better.

DON'T LIKE IT: Unless your ancestors came over on the Mayflower, it's likely they arrived here after the ancestors of most people with African roots. So if anyone's going to leave, it should be you. I'm happy to buy you a one-way ticket out of here.

FRANK EDWARDS (THE ORGANIZER), 03-18-2008

All of the hatemongers, please use your real names and don't hide behind the anonymity of the internet. The racism displayed in these comments is absolutely disgusting. Beyond disgusting. We have a long way to go indeed.

QUIT WASTING MY TAX MONEY!, 03-19-2008

Nothing in life is free, nor should it be. When something is handed to you, that means you HAVE NO RIGHT TO COMPLAIN.

I'm also guessing most of the racist jerks here are also receiving my tax money and are just eager to play the "lets blame someone else game since my $#$@% doesn't stink." Welfare leeches come in ALL colors.

GEOFF DOUGHERTY (THE EDITOR), 03-19-2008

We removed a number of comments from this thread earlier today because they were not relevant to the issues raised in the article.



If you're commenting, please make sure your remarks are directly related to the article at hand.

FRANK EDWARDS (THE ORGANIZER), 03-19-2008

So to all of our readers, we're working on figuring out an editorial policy right now to deal with the issues raised by this comment thread. We find these comments to be absolutely appalling. As you might have noticed, you now have to provide a name and email address to post comments. In cases where people post disgusting and hateful rants, we would confirm a persons identity or remove the post. We feel that most of these people don't have the nerve to attach these idiotic and disgusting words and ideas to their actual names. Geoff will blog a little bit later to let you know what our full response will be.

ROB KENDRICK, 04-01-2009

hi this is a nice conversation it helped me a lot to know more information. for further information go to the link given below

ROB KENDRICK, 04-01-2009

yes there are some of the people who works for more than 16hours due to the lead the best life in this environment we have to appreciate them for there struggle.for further go to the link given below.
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Robkendrick
Substance Abuse Center