Shelter Shorts

Broken Promises I

Current and former tenants of Chicago’s public housing are suing the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) for failing to provide “adequate relocation assistance and effective social services” to families displaced by demolition of the high-rise towers. The lawsuit charges that residents are being placed in segregated and high poverty areas, in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Quality Housing and Work Responsibility Act of 1998. Also, the suit charges CHA with violating the agreement with the federal government that allowed the agency to tear down the projects under the Plan for Transformation. After receiving federal funds under the HOPE VI program in 1995, CHA was supposed to provide at least comparable housing to what it demolished, in an area not less desirable with regard to commercial and public facilities.

One study found that 83 percent of the approximately 3,200 families that relocated between 1995 and 2002 moved to neighborhoods that were at least 90 percent African American; 50 percent moved to high poverty areas. (Residents’ Journal, Jan/Feb 2003. www.wethepeoplemedia.org)

NYC Decision Fails Smell Test

Harlem residents already have two large sewage treatment plants, six diesel bus depots and three garbage truck facilities in their neighborhood. Now New York City officials have decided to reopen a Harlem pier for hauling trash. The facility will handle about 1,000 tons of garbage a day once it’s up and running again, which the Bloomberg Administration says is necessary because it’s more cost effective than moving trash by 18-wheelers.

But Harlemites aren’t buying. Residents say the decision to reopen the pier is nothing less than environmental racism (see Shelterforce #126) at a time when the historic black neighborhood is on the rebound. They’re digging in for a tough fight. (NY Times 3/9/03)

Two Strikes? Not So Fast…

City commissioners of Covington, KY, have delayed passage of a law that would have allowed the city to board up apartments or private residences where there have been two or more crimes during a 12-month period involving prostitution, drugs, gambling or alcohol. Property owners could avoid that penalty only by evicting the tenants involved.

If the proposal sounds familiar, that’s because it echoes the one-strike law that allows public housing authorities to evict an entire family if one member – or even one visitor to the household – engages in drug-related or certain other criminal activity.

The Kentucky Post reports that the commissioners put the “two-strikes” proposal on hold because they were surprised by the fears expressed by several residents – especially those in the black community of Eastside. Mayor Butch Callery denied the law was part of a conspiracy to push black citizens out of the neighborhood, but Commissioner Craig Bohman urged Eastside residents to organize and make their voices heard. (Kentucky Post, 3/20/03)

AKA Chronic Public Neglect

Acronyms save time and paper. Why say National Housing Institute when you can simply say NHI? Why say homeless when you can just say CPN?

Tired of saying “chronic public nuisance,” city officials in Key West, FL, have shortened the synonym for homeless people to CPN. It’s all part of the city’s effort to prevent the homeless from sleeping in public places by videotaping beaches, parks and homeless encampments. The footage will be used to convince city commissioners and the public that homeless people are indeed nuisances, and to build support for a city shelter – the first on the island. Seems that without the shelter, the police cannot arrest people simply for being homeless. Once the shelter is up and running, CPNs will no doubt morph into chronically imprisoned nuisances (CINs – you read it here first) and face arrest if they’re found sleeping anywhere but the shelter. (Streetvibes, 2/03)

Bush Collars Classroom Cons

During the Reagan Administration it was the welfare queens in their Cadillacs ripping off the system. Now, the Bush Administration has identified the latest con artists who make a mockery of the law: kids in school who will do anything to eat a tasty school lunch.

The U.S.Department of Agriculture, citing Census figures, says up to 27 percent of the 28 million children who receive free or reduced lunches are not eligible. Eric Bost, the department’s undersecretary for food and nutrition, believes the estimate is too high. Nonetheless, Agriculture wants to institute a tougher verification process to prevent any family of four with an income more than $23,530 a year from receiving free lunches. The government will spend $2 million on a study to screen applicants and root out the brown bag bandits. But the Food Research and Action Center says the USDA’s estimates are based on muddled data – and that hundreds of thousands of eligible low-income children might ultimately be denied the right to a school lunch. (www.frac.org/html/federal_food_programs/programs/overcert.html)

Tenants Terrorized

A New York City landlord paid two thugs $700 and promised an additional $1,800 if they would beat up two tenants occupying a rent-stabilized apartment. Both tenants were stabbed, and one had two fingers severed. The landlord insists he only wanted to scare them out of the apartment so he could raise the rent by $1,400 per month. Now he’s being charged with conspiracy, burglary, criminal possession of a weapon and assault. (NY Times, 3/10/03)

The Devil in the Details

“Where did this idea come from that everybody deserves free education, free medical care, free whatever? It comes from Moscow, from Russia. It comes straight out of the pit of hell. And it’s cleverly disguised as having a tender heart. It’s not a tender heart. It’s ripping the heart out of this country.”

Texas State Rep. Debbie Riddle (R-Houston) uttered that fire-and-brimstone speech to fellow members of the House Border Affairs Committee recently. Riddle’s oratory was apparently inspired by the committee’s discussion of free medical care that undocumented residents receive. Later, she added that people must start taking more responsibility and make necessary sacrifices to pay for their own healthcare.

The Austin Chronicle reports that the Mexican-American Legislative Caucus was outraged by Riddle’s remarks, and informed the freshman legislator in a letter that education and health care are mandated by the Texas Constitution and supported by sales taxes paid by every Texan, permanent or temporary, legal or not.

Riddle, who took the oath of office last year with her pastor at her side, represents a district that is 73 percent white with an average household income of $72,104. (www.austinchronicle.com/issues/dispatch/2003-03-21/pols_naked3.html)

Broken Promises II

Julio Romero is suing the Northwest Area Foundation for $1.25 million because the foundation decided not to give $15 million to reduce poverty in Yakima County, WA. Romero, an unemployed farm and factory worker, charges in the lawsuit that residents spent more than 10,000 hours attending more than 50 meetings, taking time off from work, arranging child care and paying out of their own pockets to travel to meetings. Foundation officials say it was hard to get Yakima united behind its efforts. Karl Stauber, president of the foundation, said his staff in Yakima reported that it would take the community three to five years to overcome traditional divisions and produce a plan.

But community leaders discount that complaint, and say the foundation had changed its own project leaders several times before abandoning the project.

Yakima Valley consists of a white business community, the Yakama Nation and Hispanics who work the farms.

The Northwest Area Foundation proposal for Yakima had been part of the foundation’s new strategy to spend $150 million to finance grassroots plans to reduce poverty in 16 communities in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa. (NY Times 3/6/03; also the Northwest Area Foundation, www.nwaf.org)

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