LeClaire residents frustrated over CHA plan

LeClaire Courts residents entered yesterday's meeting with Chicago Housing Authority CEO Lewis Jordan seeking clarity on where they’ll live after part of their public housing project is emptied out later this year.

Some found the answers they were looking for. But many left feeling confused, and some say the CHA isn't telling the truth about the planned closure of part of the development.

“This is valuable land, and we’re close to Midway Airport and the expressway and now they’re asking us to leave,” said Local Advisory Council President Natalie Saffold. “I’ve made this my home, I want to know the real reason why they’re telling us to leave.”

The CHA is ushering residents out of the development "like a herd of cattle," she said.

Other residents, like Velveeta Fairman can’t wait to leave the mildew infested apartments they’ve been living in for the last nine years.

“I’m ready to get out of here,” Fairman said. “In the winter, my closets fill up with water. I don’ know how many clothes I’ve ruined. I want my voucher.”

The Chicago Housing Authority last week voted to relocate 146 families who are living in a portion of the development funded by housing vouchers provided under the federal Section 8 program. Officials cite maintenance problems, safety concerns and high operating costs for the move.

Part of LeClaire is also operated as a traditional public housing project. The 41 families there are not currently being relocated, though the CHA has stopped accepting applications for new residents, and has decided not to allow current LeClaire Section 8 residents to move to the so-called 'federal' portion of the development.

Both groups of residents have been told that they can elect to move into another Section 8 housing project or into a facility rehabilitated by the Chicago Housing Authority.

They may return after LeClaire Courts is redeveloped years down the road.

“We understand that some of you feel as though you’re being pushed out, but this has been a long process,” said CHA chief Lewis Jordan. “But for the city and state side there is a sense of urgency.”

Residents who want to stay are urging the CHA to delay relocations until there is a definitive plan for the site.

“Honestly, I want to stay,” LAC president Ruth Todd said after the meeting.

Many residents stood up during the meeting to declare their frustration with the CHA’s process.

“We’ve already had this conversation,” Fairman said, while Jordan asked the residents to fill out surveys declaring where they'd like to live after leaving LeClaire. “I want something else.”

About 40 residents met yesterday with counselors to discuss relocation. The CHA promised to get back to those residents who want out immediately, during the next three to four days, said Bryce White, director of housing and community outreach for the CHA

In the meantime, the residents who wish to stay, who believe LeClare Courts is a better place since the population has thinned, will continue to push for written promises declaring the CHA’s intentions for the property.