September 11, 2002
- Meghan K. Harte
- Mary E. Wiggins
- R. Olomenji O’Connor
- Richard M. Wheelock
- Robert D. Whitfield
Re: Independent Monitor’s Report No. 3
Our agreement provides that I will consult with representatives of CHA and CAC to convey any interim recommendations I may have for improvements in the Phase II Relocation process. Report No. 1 was submitted to you on July 24, and Report No. 2 was submitted to you on August 5. I now submit Report No. 3:
In my second report (par. 3), I called attention to the serious problem presented by the tight schedule for emptying buildings in six of the developments: Robert Taylor A, Robert Taylor B, Stateway Gardens, Washington Park, Ickes, and Bridgeport. We have been told that the deadline has been extended until October 15th for the 4120 S. Prairie building at Washington Park (48 families remaining as of the week of September 2). However, to our knowledge the September 30 date is still operative as to Bridgeport, Ickes, Stateway Gardens, Taylor A and Taylor B. It is our understanding, however, that the building closure deadline is not as worrisome at Bridgeport, as the residents there will remain on-site during the building rehab.
There are still a great many families that need to be relocated from the other four developments. To meet the September 30th deadline, the following number of residents will have to be relocated in the next 3 weeks:
Development Families left as of the week of September 2nd Families to be moved per week (average) Ickes 75 25 Stateway Gardens 77 25-26 Taylor A 71 23-24 Taylor B 60 20
It is unrealistic to expect a smooth transmission for such a large number of residents when operating under such a stringent deadline.
Thus, the situation predicted to me to which I made reference in my first report (par. 1) is about to come to pass: during the next few weeks, there will be a flurry of activity in the relocation process, with prime emphasis on moving, that is, on quantity instead of quality. This will also result in the situation to which I referred in my second report, that is, that families who have chosen HCVs will either be rushed into housing choices that are not in their best interests, or required to relocate temporarily to make-ready units while they complete the HCV process. This need for speed also forecloses as a practical matter the option of moves to opportunity areas. The simple and most appropriate solution to this situation is obvious: to extend the dates to close Robert Taylor A and B, Stateway Gardens, and Ickes.
This situation, which has been predictable from the outset, makes it obvious that the overall timing of the moving process schedule needs revision. This is a subject which I will address in my next report.
Moves to make-ready units should be scheduled first for families which have chosen to remain in public housing, so that those which have selected HCVs will have additional time to select their rental units, and perhaps avoid the need for multiple moves.
Currently, make-ready units must be approved by the CHAs Department of Operations, the property manager, and the make-ready construction company manager. There have been instances in which make-ready units have been approved by the Department of Operations, but have repeatedly failed final inspections by property management. This recently was the case at Stateway Gardens, resulting in weeks of unnecessary delay. To avoid this delay, the CHAs Department of Operations should ensure that make-ready units are actually ready for immediate occupancy when they are approved.
Property managers and Section 8 specialists should not wait until residents respond to scheduling letters to complete the required move-out paperwork. If necessary, they should make door-to-door visits in an effort to complete Notices of Intention to Vacate (NIVs), and schedule move dates as soon as residents have located acceptable housing units.
The LAC president of each building which is scheduled to close in Phase II should attend the relocation team meetings, the relocation building meetings, and the working group meetings, which relate to the presidents development. If the president is unable to attend, a representative should be designated in the presidents place. The active participation of LAC leaders should result in higher resident attendance at the building meetings, help to ensure that consistent messages are being conveyed to the residents, and improve resident morale with the knowledge that their leaders are actively looking after their interests. This will also afford residents an opportunity to speak about redevelopment plans with a resident representative who has personally attended the working group meetings.
The problems with gangs in the buildings, referred to in Report No. 2 (par. 5), persist at Stateway Gardens, Taylor A and B, and Rockwell. At a meeting I attended of the Taylor B relocation team on August 22, a member of the CHA Section 8 staff and a representative of Changing Patterns related how gang members prevented counselors from entering the buildings, and interfered with the use of the elevators for some moves. On the same day, the LAC President at Stateway Gardens, Francine Washington, described how, earlier in the week of August 18, rival gangs were shooting at one another between buildings, and that no response was received from the Chicago Police Department to her and others repeated calls for help. We have since heard reports of rival gangs fighting at Taylor B and Washington Park, and caution having to be exercised by movers at the Wells Extensions. Although the Chicago Police Department, upon the insistence of the CHA, has deployed officers to various buildings, these officers are often not in a position to act as an effective deterrent.
It is obvious that the gangs continue to present a serious problem to the relocation process, and that this problem must be addressed directly and forcefully by all concerned, including CHA management, the LAC representatives and building managers, and the Chicago Police Department. Because this is a matter which will persist in future years, I will further address this subject in my next report.
A related problem is the move of residents to make-ready units in buildings inhabited or controlled by gangs which rival the gangs with which the moving residents are identified. This creates serious dangers for the moving residents. (See Report No. 2, par. 5.) Based upon the reports we have received in recent meetings, it is clear that these problems persist. This situation is especially marked in the Robert Taylor Homes, where residents fear moving to Dearborn or Ickes because of gang affiliations. It has also come to our attention that residents moving from the 340 S. Western building in the Rockwell Gardens development will face similar problems; a number of the residents have told us they are certain that gang violence will be unavoidable if they are relocated to 2515 W. Jackson.
In order to address the relocation process in a humane and intelligent fashion, careful consideration must be given to these gang affiliations, and the resultant dangers posed to residents, many of whom are the innocent victims of gang rivalries. It must be borne in mind that these moves do not come from the instigation of the residents, but are being forced by the
government. Accordingly, I believe that the government must accept the responsibility to assure the safety of the relocated residents, and to provide make-ready units in buildings which do not present risks to life or limb. With all of the public housing units available throughout the Chicago area, this ought to be relatively easy to accomplish, although perhaps not within the tight time frames currently in effect.
With respect to the team meetings in the remainder of Phase II, we recommend that the team leaders use consolidated color-coded tracking sheets which show the names and information of the residents who have not yet moved, rather than the sheets currently in use which include information about those who have already moved. This will save time and focus those present on the persons who have yet to be relocated. Full tracking sheets should continue to be available at the meetings for ready reference.
The weekly building meetings instituted by the CHA serve as a splendid opportunity for residents to have their relocation questions answered. The residents can also schedule their moves with the Section 8 specialists and meet one-on-one with representatives of the various relocation agencies. I commend the CHA for taking this worthwhile initiative. All efforts should be made by the CHA, property management, service connectors, and LACs to encourage residents to attend these meetings.
My associates, Robert J. Blazejowski and Zubair A. Khan, my partner, Robert Z. Slaughter, and I have been very impressed with the dedication, diligence, and competency of the CHAs relocation staff operating under the direction of Meghan Harte and Rayne Martin, and the advice provided to us by the CAC President Mary Wiggins and her staff, and CACs lawyers, Robert Whitfield and Richard Wheelock, as well as the assistance we have received from Alex Polikoff and Adam Gross of BPI. They all have demonstrated personal and professional commitment to having Phase II of the relocation process proceed smoothly, efficiently and humanely. Although our reports and recommendations may include criticisms of the process, I do not intend to suggest that the leaders of the CAC and the CHA have failed to do their level best to perform their functions in an admirable manner, in what is a most difficult and complicated task.
Respectfully submitted, Thomas P. Sullivan
Independent Monitor, Phase II One IBM Plaza