May 30, 2005

Requiem for the Flowers

This planter was filled with flowers sometime on Friday, May 20, 2005.

This is how it looked on Thursday, May 26, 2005
Planters.code violations.surplus 002

This is how it is on Monday, May 30, 2005
GDN symbols mark the spot where the flowers died.

May 27, 2005

Axum Obelisk

A cordial invitation from a very good neighbor!

Chicagoland Ethiopians and American friends of Ethiopia will be holding a celebration of the historic return of the Axum Obelisk from Italy to Ethiopia, and the 14th Anniversary of “Ginbot 20”, an Ethiopian national holiday marking the end of military dictatorship and the establishment of the federal democratic system in Ethiopia.

We are pleased to invite you to this special celebration which will be held on Saturday, May 28, 2005, from 7:00 p.m. until 1:00 a.m., at St. Andrew Church, located at 5649 N. Sheridan Road, Chicago Illinois. The celebration will feature live Ethiopian cultural music, poetry, and Ethiopian cuisine.

In 1937, the Italian invading army looted the Obelisk and erected it in Rome to mark the 15th anniversary of Benito Mussolini’s fascistic regime. Thanks to the tireless and effective diplomatic and public relations campaign by the Ethiopian government, its people and friends of Ethiopia, the Obelisk was returned in April of 2005 to its birthplace, Axum after 68 years of exile in Italy. The historic Ethiopian town of Axum was declared a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site in September 1980.

Having endured 17 years of Soviet Union-backed dictatorship under Mengistu Hailemariam’s communist regime, today’s Ethiopia enjoys a flourishing democracy. For instance, this celebration is being held amid ballot counting and certification by the Board of Elections, following a free and fair parliamentary election which has won the admiration of the international community including the European Union, former U.S. president Jimmy Carter and others who served as election observers.

The attached flyer provides additional information on the occasion. We hope your schedule will permit you to join us on this joyous occasion. To let us know of your plans or if you have any questions, please reply to this email or call the Ethiopian Mutual Aid Association of Illinois at (773) 465-7013.

Thank you and we look forward to having you with us on May 28, for an evening of fun and rich cultural experience.

May 26, 2005

No More Whining


Dont' whine, look at the statistics, grab a neighbor and join us!

BoJo walks around the neighborhood every Friday. We meet at 8PM in front of the Broadmoor, 7600 North Bosworth. It takes people to make a difference, it takes neighbors to make a community. We are the Watchers.

May 25, 2005

Members Only Agenda

Ever get sucked into a situation that made you feel uncomfortable? Ever get sucked into the wrong kind of atmosphere where you felt as though you were a hostage? I did tonight…again.

I ended up in a down home revival in my neighborhood. The incessant emails, flyers, and phone calls were enough to make me want to pull the shades. But to quote the control hostess of tonights revival ‘you can’t say much if you don’t do much’. So I went to the meeting at the soup kitchen.

This one was not a meeting, it was a religious disorder.

I am a firm believer and proponent of separation of church and state, as were the founding fathers. So I can say plenty because I do plenty…and this was a controlled agenda using religion as power to exclude and intimidate.

This was supposed to be a community meeting to introduce Commander Rottner. The choir sang and sang and sang. Then we had praying and more praying. Then the hostess acknowledged that not everyone attending is a Christian, but ordered (asked) us not to be turned off. We were given little “sign up cards for their church er, club” and were urged to become a part of their agenda. Then we had a non-resident beat 2422, member of the Good News Community Kitchen/Church board complain about the dissemination of information at CAPS meetings. So the 4 ‘new and innovative requests’ to the police were:

1. Foot patrols and bike patrols –Why are 9-10 police at monthly CAPS meetings and not on the street and could they be walking on the street instead? This was presented by a non-resident beat 2422 person, member of the same organization who spoke of ‘sitting on the planter in front of the Howard el and witnessing a recent shooting incident there'. He claimed he jumped off the planter, hurt himself and is still having problems. Well, it is a planter for flowers not a butt bench.
2. Hot Spots – A real beat 2422 resident named the hot spots on her street and claimed there were no hot spots in the Gold Coast or Mayor Daley’s hood, therefore demanded all hot spots be identified and cleaned up.
3. Officers of Color – another non-resident beat 2422 person requested more police officers of color North of Howard and presented statistics on racial differences.
4. Quarterly Meetings - The hostess reclaimed the podium and stated ‘we need more police who look like us and speak like us’. The hostess then requested a quarterly meeting between her group and Commander Rottner.

Somewhere in this non-community church revival, the hostess finally invited us to meet the man, the reason we came. But if you know anything about ‘control’ the podium was not turned over to him to speak. He was ‘ordered’ to stand where she willed. He chose to disobey her order and sat on a chair until she was willing to allow him to speak…for 5 minutes. After 40 minutes of ‘amens’ Commander Rottner was asked if he would meet the ‘demands’ on the above 4 items. He was ordered to give a yes/no answer. On item #3, he said he would do the ‘best he could do’. He was able to sandwich in some of his goals, career and life history in what remained of his 5 minutes! There was NO community question and answer session. Non-members were excluded. The meeting ended with a megaphone walk and more amens.

So what’s their agenda?
Agenda: The Kitchen is a member of MAC, Metropolitan Alliance of Congregations, the organizer has been given full reign by his boss, (tonights hostess) to develop a power organization. His goal, as he told me, is to gather 500 people by MAC’s November, 2005 conference downtown. Therefore, the sign-up cards, therefore, the reason why non-church members didn't speak! Recruitment? Resume Kudos? Job security?

Not discussed tonight:

Section 8 Mismanaged Buildings and tax-exempt properties owned by slumlords
, including one who sits on their board of directors. I know a tenant in one of his buildings who had birds coming through a rotting window! The two organizations didn’t really ‘split’ if you get my drift. An online business database lists the ‘other’ tax-exempt organization as earning $1,200,000 in sales but same organization can’t repair a rotting window! Until the situation with bad buildings is dealt with head on, not much can and will happen…so let’s blame the police and buy up more tax-exempt properties.

This same hostess lives within BoJo (Bosworth-Jonquil) but we never saw her at our Celebrate Summer Picnics in Gale Park last summer. She complained about the hood, we made sure she received picnic and CAPS flyers. We finally saw her arrive late and leave early at the May 2005 CAPS meeting. The organizer asked questions, pointed fingers, advertised his organization at CAPS, but the community was excluded from really meeting the commander at their revival tonight! Is that hypocritical or what?

Our weekly Friday BoJo Halloween Walks were announced but the church did not join. They should know BoJo walkers called 311 and reported the two block strip on Paulina from Howard to Juneway had no lit street lamps.

So, how much attention do they pay to keeping a neighborhood free of crime, of creating a safe environment? Did they even know their street lights were out?

Blessed Be!

Flower Abuse

The Charity's non-gardners planted flowers Friday 5/20/05. That evening I told a young woman sitting on a planter that she was sitting on something alive. She jumped away as if the Loch Ness Monster was hiding in the flowers.

These pictures were taken back to back Sunday afternoon. A bench at a bus stop is brilliant! Round designs would have deterred some of this abuse.

Planters.code violations.surplus 002 Planters.code violations.surplus 001

May 23, 2005

Code Violations and Tax Waste

Here's the reason why the doorbells don't work at the 'rehabbed' south half of the North Point Ashland building. Guess the insurance claim check hasn't landed for the squatter fire started in north half of the building. Elderly people and children reside here without the security of doorbells. Open wiring isn't a violation is it?

Planters.code violations.surplus 004

Soon there will be the unveiling of the new, expensive sign for the North Point Mismanagement Office. Before and After pictures. How much? Oh, estimates are over $1,000 and probably from the 70% HUD donations.

NorthPoint trash 004 Planters.code violations.surplus 003

May 22, 2005

Tribune Investigates Section 8

Yes, let's move everyone to North of Howard, an 'area of opportunity' yet it remains depressed.... Shouldn't we share our depression and move some of our violators to your street? After all, we're all in this together, right? I sure hope Monday's edition lists the slumlords NOH that certain politicians and feel-good groups have allowed to remain here. Or should I state 'fought' to keep here? Religious, tax-exempt properties included. Tax-exempt properties that fail to upkeep their properties, fail to properly screen tenants, fail the community as a good neighbor, and fail their tenants as a 'caring landlord'.

Many Thanks to the Tribune!!!!


Landlords fail to fix poor's housing woes
4 in 10 inspections during last 5 years turn up violations

By Antonio Olivo, John Bebow and Darnell Little, Tribune staff reporters

May 22, 2005

As Chicago bulldozes its notorious high-rise housing developments, low-income families have moved into a growing network of private buildings with conditions sometimes as dire as public housing complexes.

Families shiver through winter with inadequate heat, sleep under leaky roofs or broken smoke detectors, wobble on rickety porches and stairs or face the threat of lead paint poisoning.

And taxpayers cover the rent.

Private landlords are fast taking over government's traditional role of housing Chicago's poor. But these subsidized "Section 8" landlords have been failing four out of every 10 inspections, according to a Tribune analysis of 230,000 records from the last five years.

A lofty government motto declares that Section 8 families "have a right to live in housing that is safe and sanitary."

Yet problems in the failed inspections reviewed by the Tribune included 110,000 instances of cracked or flaking paint that might expose children to lead poisoning; 37,000 electrical hazards; 24,700 plumbing, toilet and sewer problems; 19,900 instances of unsafe or inadequate heat; 12,400 broken or missing smoke detectors; and thousands of other hazards. Some apartments had multiple violations.

More than 6,000 landlords failed the majority of their inspections. Yet those landlords collectively received a quarter-billion dollars in taxpayer-funded rent subsidies in the last five years.

"This should set off alarm bells," said William Wilen, director of housing litigation for the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law. "You've got people taking money for crappy houses. It's a scandal."

In a few extreme cases, Section 8 tenants received legal settlements after alleging substandard conditions. In one case a 5-year-old boy died in a fire in a unit without working smoke detectors.

The government stopped paying rent on individual apartments 28,000 times in the last five years after landlords failed to correct the problems uncovered in inspections.

That, in turn, led to large-scale displacement. In 2004 alone, Section 8 administrators ordered 2,760 families in Chicago to move after their landlords repeatedly failed to fix violations.

That's the equivalent of three busloads of people each week who were forced to move because of substandard apartment conditions.

"You feel so tossed around," said Mary Sistrunk, a single mother of six who, according to court documents, has moved 11 times since 1996, mostly because of failed inspections in her Section 8 homes.

She said her family has lived with broken radiators, no electricity for months, raw sewage seeping through a basement bedroom carpet, and a ceiling collapse--though the biggest problem has been the constant transition.

"My kids have been through so many schools," said Sistrunk, 34. "I can't do anything but accept it. I don't want to be out on the streets."

CHA defends program

For housing officials, the widespread apartment problems are a frustrating new quandary in the decades-old question of how to house the poor.

After a half-century of warehousing low-income families in public housing complexes that became dilapidated and dangerous, Chicago in the last 10 years has jumped to the forefront of a new nationwide strategy to privatize public housing.

Some 36,000 people now live in the city's traditional public housing--a decrease of 58 percent since the early 1990s.

Many of those who moved out of the high-rises were given Section 8 vouchers. That migration has helped fuel rapid growth in the program. Since the mid-1990s, it has more than doubled to include 103,000 people.

More than 15,000 Chicago landlords--from mom-and-pop operations with little spare cash for repairs to major real estate firms--have gotten a total of $1.2 billion in Section 8 rent in the last five years.

Top housing administrators contend the program works well overall. Tenants previously trapped in public housing are now free to move wherever they want, and surveys suggest most Section 8 tenants are satisfied.

Officials said last week that they were disturbed to learn that landlords in their program had such high failure rates--a phenomenon they had not examined. But they argued that the inspection failures are a sign of aggressive enforcement.

They downplayed many of the violations as minor problems to be expected in any city with aged housing stock, saying an apartment could fail for something like a window that won't open.

But they acknowledged that some units have failed for serious problems such as broken furnaces, gas leaks or rat infestations. In fact, they said that since 2000, they had found 265 apartments with life-threatening violations that required fixes within 24 hours.

Officials said they had no way to comprehensively track the severity of failed inspections.

"We have 36,000 families that live in the voucher program and not everybody's living in the best condition," acknowledged Meghan Harte, director of resident services for the Chicago Housing Authority, which oversees the voucher program.

Officials also insist there is no excuse for failing inspections--landlords are given pre-inspection checklists that detail what conditions they need to meet, and they get weeks of warning before inspectors arrive.

In March--partly in response to Tribune inquiries--the CHA announced a crackdown to bar problem landlords from getting rent subsidies if they've had a history of failed inspections, outstanding code violation fines or unpaid taxes. Harte said she expected some landlords to be kicked out of the program later this year when the agency's investigation is complete.

"How we can tighten up the review of our landlords is the top of our priorities," she said, but she insisted that "on the whole, our landlords are really good about maintaining their properties."

Flawed inspections

Interviews and court documents suggest that the Section 8 program stumbles at many levels: Inconsistent inspections keep problem homes in the program, cheap repairs quickly crumble, and many renters are too exhausted or afraid of eviction to complain.

Latasha White moved out of a now-demolished Cabrini-Green high-rise with her four children in spring 2004. Her new four-bedroom Section 8 rental on Union Avenue in Englewood had little heat and rotting wood floors when she moved in, she said.

"I didn't know what to think," White said, adding that she took the place despite the problems, because her rent voucher would have expired if she didn't move quickly.

Mice soon began chewing through cereal boxes, she said, and ceiling leaks grew so severe that water dripped from a hallway light socket during a recent visit by a reporter.

In the winter, she chose a hazardous solution common among tenants with heat problems. She opened the oven door and twisted the gauge toward broil.

Inspectors eventually verified White's complaint about inadequate heat. But that created more problems for White: When the problem went unsolved, she said officials wanted her to move out of the apartment. On top of that, White owed the gas company more than $1,000.

"Why should I have to pay for this when I'm just trying to keep my kids warm?" White asked.

Throughout the United States, local housing authorities administer Section 8 rent vouchers to house some 2 million people in privately owned apartments.

The Chicago Housing Authority has subcontracted the day-to-day management of the Section 8 program to a private company called CHAC Inc.

Landlords--a term that includes both owners and property managers, all of whom are responsible for the property under city ordinance--contact CHAC if they want to rent to voucher holders.

CHAC then sets up preliminary inspections, telling landlords the housing standards they must meet are "basic."

That means "making sure that every family has hot and cold running water, utilities and appliances that work, proper locks, handrails on flights of four or more stairs, and properly situated smoke detectors," according to CHAC handouts. CHAC also tells landlords to eliminate lead paint hazards, a major concern in cities with old buildings.

Yet the more than 98,000 failed inspections reviewed by the Tribune occurred within a year after CHAC had deemed units ready and safe for occupancy.

In 2003, a CHA auditor said there was a "serious question" about the job CHAC inspectors were doing. More than half of a random sample of 75 units failed reinspection just months after being approved for occupancy.

CHAC has fired two inspectors for accepting bribes, said executive director William Riley. He said he had no way to protect against the corruption of inspectors whose starting salary is $28,000.

"It's a concern to us," Riley said, "because they are out on their own. From time to time, I think an owner is going to want to see if he could push an inspector to pass a unit so that he doesn't have to deal with it."

Though tenants can get caught in the middle between landlords and bureaucrats, some have turned to the courts for accountability.

Last year, CHAC and landlords paid $1.05 million to the family of 5-year-old Shataun Fulton, who had died in a fire in the family's Section 8 apartment. The family's lawsuit blamed CHAC inspectors for failing to find and rectify a broken smoke detector.

A similar suit blames the fire death of an 18-month-old girl on broken smoke detectors and shoddy inspections. That case is ongoing.

And in another recent case, the CHA accused its own management company, CHAC, of "negligence and breach of contract."

The mother of a 7-year-old boy with lead poisoning had sued the CHA and CHAC, saying the lead came from a Section 8 apartment. In court documents, the CHA then claimed CHAC failed to properly inspect the home, saying the company "continued to make housing assistance payments despite Section 8 units that failed to meet Housing Quality Standards."

A neurologist concluded the boy will likely require close supervision for the rest of his life because of chronic emotional and learning disabilities, according to court documents. The family of the lead-poisoned boy received an undisclosed settlement last August.

CHAC and CHA officials declined to discuss that case in detail last week.

"I think [CHAC] is doing a good job," Harte said. "Can they do a better job? Yeah. The important thing for us is that we do the best job possible and that we always continue to improve."

Lead paint troubles

Potential lead paint hazards are the most common problem noted in failed Section 8 inspections. When small children ingest lead paint chips or dust, they absorb the heavy metal in their bloodstream. That can impede cognitive growth or, in severe cases, damage kidneys and reproductive systems and even lead to coma or death.

"Once the lead is elevated, the damage is done," said Dr. Helen Binns, a national leader in lead research based at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago. "We need to know sooner rather than later whether there is lead in these homes."

Sometimes one problem in an apartment can lead to a chain reaction, as tenants try their own stopgap remedies to problems.

Section 8 tenant Marie Morgan said she was unaware of the lead paint inside her Roseland home when she sought to keep her family warm last winter. Without working heat, Morgan said she boiled large pots of water on her stove, creating a makeshift vaporizer that kept her four children cozy.

"I didn't want to turn on the oven like other people do because I was worried about carbon monoxide fumes," said Morgan, a nurse's assistant.

Days later, layers of paint peeled away, she said.

In January, tests revealed that Morgan's son, Kordell, 3, had elevated levels of lead in his blood. The exact source of that lead poisoning remains unclear, but Health Department inspectors did confirm the presence of lead in the apartment.

Patrick Sherlock, an attorney whose firm has repeatedly sued the CHA and CHAC for lead poisoning, said city building and health inspectors have found lead violations in homes approved months earlier by CHAC.

"We've seen it happen over and over again," Sherlock said.

CHAC inspectors don't actually test for lead in apartments. Instead, they cite violations when they believe it is likely that the heavy metal is present inside older buildings with deteriorated surfaces. City health department inspectors do further testing and order cleanups if lead is found.

According to the Health Department, the city's drive to educate and encourage landlords has reduced the occurrence of lead poisoning in Section 8 apartments. Health officials said 850 children living in voucher apartments now have elevated blood levels--down from 1,523 two years ago.

But several titans of Chicago's Section 8 program have had widespread lead paint problems. For example, the federal government found that Wolin-Levin Inc., a real estate firm that earned $5.4 million in Section 8 revenues in the last five years, failed to inform tenants of potential lead paint hazards in 176 buildings on the South and West Sides.

The company agreed to pay a $25,000 fine and contribute $100,000 toward a city lead abatement program, court records show.

"We're doing risk assessments on all of our buildings," company vice president Norm Levin said. "Some of the problems have been related to lead dust. With all the demolition that's been going on in Chicago, there is lead filtering through the air and finding a place to land all over the city."

Few consequences

More than 100 landlords each received more than $250,000 in Section 8 rent while failing the majority of inspections in the last five years, according to CHA records.

Ausencia Hinojosa, 75, is one such landlord.

On a warm spring day, a vacancy sign on one of her buildings in South Chicago read "Section 8 welcomed." Inside, workers refurbished two empty apartments. Tenants said the smell of fresh paint was a relief from the winter stench of sewage in the basement, the result of a recently corrected plumbing problem.

"This place ain't fit to live in," said Jocelyn Jones, 48, a Section 8 tenant in the building.

Clumps of steel wool--a makeshift barrier against mice--protruded from wall cracks in Jones' apartment. A wedged piece of cardboard held the latch of a broken front door lock.

Hinojosa has had problems with both city housing inspectors and Section 8 inspectors.

This building and another just down 91st Street were on the city's official list of "troubled buildings" in recent months.

Judges fined Hinojosa $2,575 in the last two years for more than 60 code violations in the two buildings. An inspector who visited one in the dead of winter found that a timer kept the heat turned off in one building about half the day.

In 2002, the federal government fined Hinojosa $2,000 for failing to warn tenants of potential lead paint hazards.

And Hinojosa failed 100 Section 8 housing-quality inspections in the last five years, or 59 percent of all her inspections reviewed by the Tribune.

Hinojosa called those records "lies."

"My buildings are all nice and I take care of them," Hinojosa said. "If they don't pass, it's usually because a toilet is a little loose or a smoke detector isn't working."

She accused some tenants of complaining to CHAC about poor conditions to get out of paying their portion of the rent.

About others, Hinojosa said: "If they don't tell me about the problems in their apartments, we don't know about them. They all have my phone number."

Hinojosa collected $750,000 in rent subsidies in the last five years. CHAC cut off Hinojosa's rent subsidies in individual apartments 28 times since 2000, but took no wider enforcement action.

Critics contend this piecemeal enforcement allows landlords to get by with patchwork repairs.

"They need to have these people become certified before they let them in the program," said Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th), whose South Shore ward includes a high concentration of Section 8 apartments. "Collecting from Section 8 should be a privilege, not a right. They take advantage of people that really need something, which is housing."

CHA's Harte acknowledged that the rent cutoffs in individual units were no longer a "big enough hammer" to force landlords, especially large operators, to fix problems.

However, if CHA's new systemic review of landlords results in some getting booted from the program, fresh headaches for tenants could result.

The 28,000 rent cutoffs in individual apartments in the last five years were intended to force landlords to fix hazards. An unintended consequence was that thousands of tenants had to find new places to live.

New apartments often mean new schools and street gang boundaries--risks that some single mothers in the Section 8 program are afraid to take. Housing watchdogs said the threat of relocation leads many tenants to settle for substandard conditions rather than report problems.

"They are in a very precarious situation, which means they have to put up with an awful lot," said F. Willis Caruso, CHA's general counsel in the early 1990s who now runs the John Marshall Law School Fair Housing Legal Clinic. "They think, about the landlord: `If he tries to evict me, I'm out.'"

Last year, landlord Cordell Cherry admitted in court to trying to evict a Section 8 tenant who complained about the condition of her apartment. Such retaliation is illegal under state and local laws.

CHAC had paid $800 a month to Cherry to house Annette Campbell in a building at 7018 S. Paxton Ave. After Campbell complained, CHAC inspectors found a list of problems in her unit in September 2002, including exposed wires, missing smoke detectors and a falling kitchen ceiling.

At the beginning of 2003, the water went off and stayed off for four months, according to court papers. Campbell, 47, said she and her 20-year-old daughter bathed, cooked and flushed their toilet with water brought in by relatives in large plastic tubs.

CHAC cut off Cherry's subsidy for Campbell's unit in February 2003. The next month, Cherry tried to evict her for non-payment of rent. The strategy backfired when a judge ordered Cherry to pay $1,400 in fines and returned security deposits.

Cherry has collected $237,000 in Section 8 payments for Chicago apartments in the last five years while failing 77 percent of his inspections, according to CHAC records.

"Some people think that if you're getting government help, that means you're ignorant and can be stepped on, and that's because they do find so many people who are so afraid," Campbell said. She now lives in another Section 8 apartment on the South Side.

Cherry did not respond to interview requests.

Troubling economics

Chicago's soft rental market in recent years, held down by low mortgage interest rates that persuaded many renters to buy, led more landlords to seek Section 8 tenants. Especially in struggling neighborhoods, government subsidies were typically higher than market-rate rents.

The CHA now tries to persuade tenants to move to "areas of opportunity" with low poverty and better job prospects, but much of the housing stock that landlords make available to Section 8 tenants remains in depressed areas.

Some Section 8 landlords even advertise signing bonuses of up to $500 for new tenants. The incentive for the owner is guaranteed rent.

A good Section 8 unit can cost a landlord several hundred dollars a month to maintain. Catastrophes such as robberies, failed furnaces and the like can bury small-time landlords who fail to maintain rainy-day funds.

Subsidy cuts under consideration in Congress would drive some out of business and intensify quality problems, housing experts said.

"It's going to make the situation worse," said Paul Fisher, a professor at Lake Forest College who has been documenting the CHA redevelopment effort. "If the alternative is homelessness, maybe this is what these families are stuck with."

Even some of the largest and most reputable Section 8 landlords are nervous about the future.

For years, a real estate company called Patria Partners has pitched Section 8 as the ideal way for investors to get in on the rebirth of Chicago's South Side. The firm refurbishes buildings and fills them with Section 8 tenants.

Patria Partners earned $7.7 million in Section 8 rent in the last five years while passing three-quarters of its inspections--far outpacing most others in revenue and quality.

This year, CHAC is reducing one-third of all Chicago vouchers by an average of $200 a month to bring the payments in line with market rates. Those reductions, combined with higher property taxes and utilities, are cutting into Patria's business, said CEO Barry Miller.

"We're rethinking our whole business model," Miller said. He said he believes funding cuts could drive reputable firms out of Section 8. "You'll see less quality housing because there will be fewer economic incentives to develop it."

- - -

Section 8 and its tenants

Funded with federal tax dollars, Section 8 "housing-choice vouchers" pay for low-income families' rent on the open market.



Number of vouchers that the Chicago Housing Authority oversees. The government pays landlords directly each month on behalf of each voucher family.

The apartments must pass inspections at least once a year.


Number of Chicago families on a waiting list for the program.


Percent of a voucher holder's monthly income that is expected to go toward rent.


The value of an average monthly voucher in 2004.


Percent of people living on vouchers in Chicago who are African-American.


Average annual gross income of Chicago voucher holders.


Average family size


Section 8 vouchers have steadily replaced government-owned public housing as a way to put roofs over the heads of Chicago's poor.

Public housing residents

Early 1900s: 86,500

2004: 36,000

Voucher holders

Mid-1990s: 42,000*

2004: 103,000

Note: The federal government also runs a completely separate "project-based" Section 8 program. In that program, rent subsidies are tied to specific buildings.

Source: CHA annual reports and other documents

Chicago Tribune

- - -

Failed inspections in Section 8 apartments

Low-income families in subsidized apartments "have a right to live in housing that is safe and sanitary," the government declares. Yet Chicago landlords failed more than 98,000 inspections from 2000 through 2004.


Lead paint threats 110,399

Electrical hazards 37,328

Security problems 33,966

Stair/porch problems 28,589

Ceiling conditions 28,511

Plumbing/toilet/sewer problems 24,768

Floor conditions 22,871

Unsafe/inadequate heat 19,899

Broken/missing smoke detectors 12,435

*There are more problems than failed inspections because some inspections found multiple problems.

Sources: Chicago Housing Authority inspection records obtained by the Chicago Tribune under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.

Chicago Tribune

MONDAY: Meet some Section 8 landlords.

Copyright © 2005, Chicago Tribune

May 20, 2005

Volunteer and Help Build a Park

Kudos to John for this great website. Share it with your neighbors so everyone can help the North of Howard Advisory Council finalize this long-awaited playlot. There are many activities to participate in.

Harold Washington Playlot

May 19, 2005

Wisdom Bridge Arts Project

The Wisdom Bridge Arts Projectis proud to announce the inaugural
exhibition at the opening of its gallery space:

Friday, May 20th 5:30 - 7:30

You and your guests are cordially invited to enjoy
refreshments and meet the artists:

Patricia Pelletier and E.W. Ross
Martha Meyer and Mitchell Milner
Kathleen Maltese and Joe Oliver

Wisdom Bridge Arts Project
7543 N. Paulina Ave. - Plaza Level of Gateway Mall
Parking at Upper Level of Gateway

May 17, 2005

Pity the 'Developers' Don't Do This!

Here's an update on the activities of the Sullivans and their energy saving home. With all the discussion in this area about low-income and by all appearances of keeping this area 'livable', here's one sensible and necessary alternative! Pity the developers who win the goodies here can't or won't attempt to work with nature and her people. Think about the amount spent on utility bills this past winter. Sure, older buildings have to be completely gutted, but in the long run, it's a big payoff. Plenty of food for the developers to digest at their next meeting. And, it has very little to do with gentrification in spite of the comments this will spark. It's known as long range planning and common sense. Instant gratification doesn't last long.

Midwest Home Magazine will be featuring our project in its first addition due out in June. This issue of the magazine is focused on covering Award Winning Green Buildings from Greening the Heartland Conference, since we are the first to achieve Green Building Standing. Currently our project
is awaiting the US Green Building Counsel's pilot project standing for
LEED-Home which covers single family to four flat projects for NC (New
Construction) and EB (Existing Building), we are also being reviewed as a
USGBC Program Provider for LEED-Home.

Angie's List Magazine will publish a cover story on our Roof Gardens in the July 05 issue of the magazine and on their on line articles. It will cover deck construction and several basic requirements of roof gardening. Angie's List Magazine is running a cover story on Water Gardening in August and our Garage Roof Water Garden will be featured in that article.

The City of Chicago
, US Green Building Counsel National and the Chicago
Chapter are hosting the Greening the Hartland International Conference. You
can find more information at Greeningtheheartland. It will be
held in Chicago May 31 to June 3, 2005. We will be part of the tour program
for a selected group from the conference on June 2.

George Sullivan House: $25.00
The Sullivan House is a model project of residential green renovation. This
tour will demonstrate how a contractor and landscape designer have rehabbed
a four-story, 3 unit residential building with the goal of receiving Energy
Star Certification and LEED Platinum equivalent for residential. The
environmentally-responsible renovation has led to a drop in energy costs
from $1.85 to $0.16 per square foot and has decreased water usage to a level
that is 63.5% less than the average comparable, multi-family residential
building. The owners have also installed state-of-the-art controls and
monitoring equipment and calculate a conservative 19-year simple payback.

AIA Chicago Chapter
will make a presentation on Green redevelopment, financing, materials and sales in Chicago, June 22, 2005.

Chicago Botanic Garden
Study and Tour June 27, 2005
Our project will be featured in a study and tour sponsored by the Chicago Botanic Garden for the native plant landscaping that comprises our rain garden, front garden, and roof gardens.
This study will collect data on water use, storm water retention, plant survival and migration, overall environmental effects of the gardens in a Desert Urban Environment. "This is a unique chance to collect data and conduct a 24 month study on the effects of Green Island in the middle of a typical Desert Urban Environment." said Judy Jansen Sr. Field Researcher. Results will be published starting in December of 05, along with several articles in the Botanic Garden Magazine.

May 14, 2005

Help Fight Multiple Sclerosis

Please donate what you can to help a good neighbor fight MS:

That time of the year again! Actually I am a bit late this year so I need your help as soon as possible!

Many of you are already aware of my various campaigns throughout the year. This is the most important one to me as it has touched my life in too many ways. So PLEASE HELP ME raise funds to fight MS, this thing is going down or at a bare minimum I’m going down fighting it!

Every hour, one person is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. For 18,000 people in Illinois and 400,000 nationwide, that hour has already arrived. Each case of MS - a chronic, progressive and often disabling disease of the central nervous system - is unique just like the people who have it: 18,000 people with 18,000 unique stories.

But it is not easy to pinpoint a cause of multiple sclerosis and so far, the cure rests very much on hope. This is why I am writing to you (insert first name), we need your help to keep the hope alive! As a participant in the 2005 MS 150 Tour de Farms I am raising money to support programs, services and vital research into the cause and cure of MS. All proceeds benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Greater Illinois Chapter, whose mission is to put an end to the devastating effects of this disease.

Please consider making a donation on my behalf to help me reach my fundraising goal of $2,500. It's faster and easier than ever for you to support the fight against MS online by simply clicking on the link at the bottom of this message. Every penny makes a difference.

Two days on a bike. Pedaling for one mission...To Fight MS!


MS 150 Tour De Farms
Super Possum

May 11, 2005

Which Door?

Which door hides the truth?

KickedIn 001KickedIn 002

Both doors were recently kicked in at this IMC Property on Howard Street. This is the front portion of the tax write off on Bosworth.

One of these doors hid an evil parent who repeatedly abused a 9 year old child forcing the poor kid to run away and stay with a friend. These are low-income apartments that obviously don’t screen tenants too well. What other atrocities are concealed here?

There’s plenty of night life on this dark little strip. Deals go on all night long here and across the street. Why not, nothing is open! The corner at Greenview/Rogers is a great stash stop too. Why not? The only night light in the area is the Laundromat which used to be a diner. On the other corner is the charity’s buzz to enter office.

Like the 12 North Point buildings, the police can only do so much. What’s needed is a management company that ‘embraces’ low income families, provides homes that are safe and secure. There’s no security behind these new pressboard doors that barely latch. A neighboring business taped the CAPS signs up for what it’s worth.

Just want to let the future condo buyers of Coe’s Crib know this is across the street! Say hello to your new neighbors the Orr/Moore/HUD triangle dumped on the North side of Howard Street. On the other corner, is the infamous Broadmoor. Perhaps Mr. Coe will make the pariah an offering and rehab this burned out eyesore on the North side of Howard?

All this and SSA#19 too. Make your contribution to SSA taxes so minimum wage workers can pick up beer cans, drug bags, used condoms, broken half pints, hot chip bags, and discarded clothing....What a vision right? Trendy new condos with no business strip...just dealers and hookers.

Welcome to Howard as we see it. It's better than it 'was' so they tell me.

May 8, 2005

Porch Grilling

Mothers Day 2005 – These tenants fired up the charcoal at 5am on the wooden back porch in a densely populated North Point Building. Not only is this a fire hazard but the smoke infiltrated apartments where people were sleeping. One person woke up thinking there was a fire somewhere...again.

If North Point can charge $1000 for lost keys, $800 to replace a door if the paramedics have to enter on a wellness check, then what’s the rule on wooden porch grilling? How many fires are started this way? And, 311 needs a clue on the legality of porch grilling.


From the City of Chicago website:
Fire Safety Tips for the Bar-B-Q
There are three types of grills on the market.
1. Propane gas grills which use propane tanks.
2. Natural gas grills which use gas piped in from your house.
CAUTION: These two types of grills are not interchangeable. Make sure all fittings are tight, and there is adequate ventilation.
3. Charcoal grills which use charcoal briquettes and lighter fluid.

Ten Safety Tips
1. Read all instructions before using your grill. Note safety, operation and handling instructions.
2. Clean grill thoroughly before and after using. This is to avoid grease build up that can cause flare-ups and/or fire. NEVER put lighter fluid directly on flames!
3. Keep all grilling activities away from buildings, houses and garages.
4. Use all grills outdoors. Never grill inside houses, garages or on wooden porches.
5. Store all lighting fluids away from children.
6. Have a multipurpose A-B-C fire extinguisher, a garden hose, bucket of water or sand nearby.
7. Keep all children and pets away from grilling area (at least 5 feet in all directions).
8. Never leave cooking unattended.
9. Use proper grilling utensils for safe handling.
10. Use only fluids recommended for charcoal grilling, and dispose of charcoal properly in a metal container dowsed with water. Check cooking area for proper extinguishment.

For further information contact:
Chicago Fire Department
Bureau of Fire Prevention
Public Education Unit
1010 South Clinton Street
Chicago, Illinois 60607
(312) 747-6691/92 (voice)
(312) 747-3331 (fax)

May 5, 2005

Coe's Crib

Another Howard Street Business will soon be gone. Pick up your laundry before May 18th, 2005.

CoesCrib4.30.05 001 CoesCrib4.30.05 002

At a recent 'community meeting' to get neighborhood disapproval on Morse/Greenview, taxpayers were told that ALL of the first floor commercial 'would have been' space on the Morse/Greenview project will be consumed by the charity.

Coe stated he has plans for this neck of the woods too.

According to a former top 'charity' employee, Coe's Howard scheme is still in the planning stages. That isn't what the attendees heard at the Morse meeting. Condo's are being planned for the Tire Shop, Mel's Hot Dogs, the Discount Laundry, and the long vacant Chinese restaurant.

It's irrelevant that the charity owns 5% of the Gateway mostly empty Mall, they can't/won't reside there. Rumor has it the cleaners will relocate to the Gateway mostly empty Mall. So is that the charity's plan for Howard? Take what business remains, move it to the mall and turn Howard into modern condo city? Guess that's one way to fill that mall without doing much work. At least the laundry is a legitimate and necessary business.

Don't forget, Terzakis is supposed to build his townhouses along part of Howard and Ashland at the Lerner building to the vacant lot next to Wisdom Bridge.

Is this some sad attempt to balance the ratio of project based low income rentals to the number of 'owned' properties? Why doesn't someone make a bid to AIMCO/North Point and give NOH some real balance? Nope, we were sold out and duped again by Joe and HUD.

Just what will all these Howard condos do for commercial income? Where are these condo owners to be going to shop? Let's see, Evanston, Lincoln Park and everywhere but here. How long will they stay here after they start families? From most observations, as soon as the children are ready to enter pre-school, the 'urban professionals' relocate elsewhere. That's how Lincoln Park was too! Transient.

Hooray guys, you have duped yourselves again. No wonder this place can't prosper. There is no leadership and no long range plan other than to keep these 15 project based buildings with their mismanagement, all the exempt properties, and try to sell new condo's on the south side of Howard! North of Howard will remain the political dumping ground.

NOH 004 NOH 001

May 1, 2005

Who Cares?

North Point management gave Mr. X a Thursday move date. On Monday he was informed his move date had been pushed back to Tuesday and Mayflower movers would be there. Mr. X was not totally prepared for this because Mr. X has numerous medical conditions that often prohibit him from doing certain tasks. One condition can be triggered by stress. For the most part this condition can be controlled by medications taken on a timely basis.

The movers were to be there on Tuesday morning at 11am but arrived after 4pm. As the movers were hurriedly packing, they were interrupted and stopped by a construction worker demanding that he had to take measurements for the ‘rehab’. Now further behind schedule, the movers were really pushing Mr. X. Since his preparation time for this move had been stolen by management, he left certain items in the old apartment and chose to make trips between the two places carrying items the movers didn’t have time to properly pack and move. Or to be blunt didn’t make time to properly pack and move.

The truck was packed up by 5:30-5:45pm and the movers were finished unloading at the new place by 7:45pm.

There are certain items we prefer to personally handle during a move, such as daily medicines, birth certificates, living wills, powers of attorney, insurance papers etc. Items that should not be turned over to strangers.

When Mr. X returned to get these items, he found a padlock on the door and North Point security telling him it was too bad, his time was up. At 8:45-9:00pm Mr. X was locked out. He inquired about his personal items and he was told they had been tossed in the dumpster.

Somewhere in that huge dumpster are Mr. X’s daily meds, his birth certificate, his insurance papers, his power of attorney, and certain winter clothing items. He did not have until midnight of the final day to remove his personal belongings. His allocated movers were late, were disrupted by a construction worker who had no business in that apartment until it was vacated, and he was robbed of his legal right to have access until midnight. Midnight lease expiration is a standard procedure in a somewhat normal world. In the world of North Point, it’s militaristic in ‘do as we order’. Are there any lawyers reading this who would do some pro bono work?

Other tenants were treated in this inhuman manner too. These people are not property of North Point management or AIMCO, they are human beings.

As Mr. X told me the horror stories of North Point, there is one that should be on Dateline for the folks in Denver. Before one of his many trips to the hospital, Mr. X set up hidden video cams in his apartment. Why not? People do it all the time. It’s OK to check on the babysitter, the nanny, or the gardener if you own property, so why not check on your personal property if you are a tenant? After all, if the rent is paid, it is your home and you supposedly have certain legal rights.

Upon his return, to his dismay, Mr. X claims there was a management person in his apartment watching his television, all recorded by his hidden video cam. When confronted about this illegal activity, the person tried to turn the table on Mr. X and stated no video cams were allowed in North Point buildings! This bunch seems to make up rules as they plow through peoples lives.

Another alleged incident concerns office personnel tampering with rental money orders and checks with a certain fluid. Seems the named payee can be blotted out with a this fluid and a new payee can be written in. The same applies for adding a few extra zeros to the amount. And, being a skeptic, I just tried it and successfully erased my own signature from a piece of paper. If enough rent checks are tampered with, the 5-day notices with late fees can appear. Pretty slick for a third rate con artist. According to Mr. X, this person 'moved on to a better position' in the government.

Or last year, while a senior citizen was in the hospital, North Point allegedly took it upon themselves to ‘evict’ her, dumped her belongings onto the street even though she had paid her rent. Management made a judgment that the woman was unable to live alone without conferring with physicians or family.

AND, if you lose your keys, the replacement charge is $1,000. If you live alone you only get one set of keys or must get a medical letter stating why you need an extra set of keys.

This is the type of housing the politicians and the bleeding heart progressives keep pushing on NOH for low income people because they ‘care’. They want to preserve low income housing for people. They speak of human rights and dignity. They don’t have a clue much less a concern since most of them don’t live here. Yes, stories like this prove how greed is ‘good’…for some not for all.