September 25, 2005

Infinity Zone

This post is will not resolve zoning issues but it will certainly provide the thought formulation process of what went wrong here, and what is still going wrong. When owners purchase perfectly good buildings and jump on the low-income, easy-money bandwagon, many do not give a damn about their tenants or the properties. With the soft rental market, many property owners jumped on the section 8 voucher line. Proponents of the low income bandwagon came here from their cushy homes outside this area and protested, and this is the result. In good conscience, they should return with signs and loudspeakers and protest in front of these bad buildings about violations of human/tenant rights by these slumlords. It won't happen because it's easier to stand in front of private property and bitch about providing more low income apartments. Chances are they'll be safe there and the behavior will be condoned by the majority of the watchers. Where were they when three murders happend this summer? Where were they last night when a police officer was injured in the vicinity of Gale School aka the 'killing zone'?

Get out, take a walk, and count the number of subidized buildings on Jonquil from Bosworth west to the end of the boundary of Rogers Park. Is there one owner-occupied building there?

It's about time someone in the government started keeping track of where federal tax dollars are really going. And it's time the neighbors who reside in this little pocket make sure no more of this overbalance occurs with any proposed zoning issues. We aren't obligated to enable slumlords or to fulfill someone else's vision by just believing what we're told.
Infinity signed my petitions in July and we exchanged phone numbers. Monday, September 19, she called and asked me to come see her. Entranceways tell a lot about a building and its occupants.

Marshfield/Jonquil foyer

So do the stairwells.
View for $1000/month rent

Her story began. Infinity’s marriage wasn’t working, so she packed up her three children and moved back to Chicago in June 2004. She was staying with a relative, but problems arose so she and her kids moved into a shelter, Cornerstone, at Broadway and Clifton. During this chaos, Infinity landed a good job that paid over $30k/year and she dropped out of the bracket for transitional living. A flyer from a social service agency led her to a pleasant seeming woman named Petra Hallbeck who works for Cornerstone Realty. Petra inquired about Infinity’s credit, and asked for a letter regarding her current situation. She befriended a desperate woman.

Infinity needed to find a home since she wouldn’t qualify for residence in the shelter for much longer. Petra stated that her credit problems could be worked around and she had the perfect, spacious place for her. Petra brought Infinity to this apartment building at 7702 N Marshfield. It was clean when she first saw her future home. Infinity was told this was a tax credit building, not subsidized housing or Section 8, that houses individuals making under the $37k income level.

The walk through was during the day, the street was quiet, the halls were clean and empty, all appeared to be normal. The apartment was just as Petra had described with the exception of a few repairs that Cornerstone would make. She inquired about the neighborhood. With three children, a mother wants to know if it’s a safe place to live. She was reassured that there hadn’t been any problems in ages and the neighborhood is changing.

So a desperate, yet grateful, Infinity managed to scrape together the $2,200 for security and first months rent ($1,000) each plus a $200 deposit for a pet. She paid rent for April, May and June yet none of the promised repairs were made.

The promise of a new security door never came to fruition. The repairs to the enclosed front porch were never made nor were the water leaks in the bathroom ceiling. She had an outrageous heating bill at the end of spring. The misfit storm window in the porch has 1/4 inch shortfalls on either side. According to Infinity, the other apartments were inspected by HUD and the hallways were cleaned, repairs were made prior to the visit and the list of required repairs following the inspection were carried out. Other than call city inspectors, she still had to scrape together the market rate rent. There was no subsidy or alleged government watchdog for her. As soon as the HUD inspections were over, the halls became filthy again. At one point this summer, she told Petra about the vomit in the hall to which Petra allegedly replied “Oh I know, I saw it last week.” Petra came to collect the rent checks but left the vacuum in the office.

Market Rate Bath

Having moved from a hot southern state, Infinity assumed the thermostat switch would turn on the AC. Guess what? Another fallacy!
Another broken promise Appearance of Central Air

Being a lot more savvy than Petra of Cornerstone aka Jay Johnson aka CIG figured, Infinity quit paying rent when she discovered she was the only one paying $1000 in a Section 8 building. When she had to step over human feces, vomit, sleeping bums, and avoid drug runners, she told Petra she should be paid to live there, not the other way around.

As with so many of these places, Infinity’s lease is with Cornerstone but she was scolded and told to make the rent check payable to Marshway M not CIG or Cornerstone. No doubt the building receives one government check for all apartments, so they have to keep the record clean and straight.
She sent her young son back to his grandmother fearing the gangs in the neighborhood. Her daughters were afraid to go out of the apartment.

Infinity and her kids were packing that night and moving into a shelter until they can return to that warm southern state where the air conditioning is installed and works.

I doubt that she felt any sadness as she walked down this dismal stairwell for the last time, do you?

Walk through this every day


james said...

It is impossible to read this story and not be angry.

Toni said...

Enough anger aimed in a positive direction can make a profound change. That change must begin with those who are exploiting people like Infinity.