Housing Justice Teach-In Draws More Than 150 Public Housing Residents and Allies

By Holly Krig
JCUA Community Organizer 

Eviction, displacement and homelessness.

Those are the sad keywords that have described the Chicago Housing Authority’s “Plan for Transformation” in the 13 years since the CHA first unveiled it. JCUA has been monitoring the awkward implementation of this plan all along. We are anxiously looking forward to presentation of the updated edition – “Plan for Transformation 2.0” – in June.

This anxious feeling is shared by displaced people and their allies across the city. More than 150 of them came together recently (April 24) for a housing justice teach-in, held in the Spertus Building on Michigan Avenue, where JCUA is located.

Advocates march to the Chicago Housing Authority office, demanding that vacant apartments be leased to residents on the CHA waiting list.

Families shared powerful personal stories of eviction, displacement and homelessness resulting from CHA policies. We heard from real people with strong voices that amplified the need to act now and brought the scary statistics to life:

  • The number of homeless people in Chicago is rising. According to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless 93,780 Chicagoans were without homes in 2010-2011.
  • As reported by the Chicago Tribune, 60,000 families are on the waiting list for subsidized housing.

Following intense discussions at the teach-in, we marched to the CHA office — supported by colorful signs and powerful chants – with these demands:

  • CHA must begin leasing the more than 3,000 units of public housing that are currently vacant.
  • These units must be preserved as public housing.

JCUA’s board chair, Rabbi Bruce Elder, joined other clergy in publicly supporting public housing residents and homeless families.

Aware that the CHA’s new CEO, Charles Woodyard, was unlikely to meet our group at street level, we sent a bouquet of balloons up to his office to get his attention. We understand he subsequently agreed to a meeting with public housing residents and allies. But we haven’t yet heard that a date has been set.

This diverse, city-wide contingent of residents, homeless folks and allies from JCUA and other organizations made it clear to the CHA that we are committed to working in solidarity with people who desperately need a place to call home. We must continue to demonstrate that we will hold the CHA accountable to working with residents and displaced families to seek solutions. We believe that housing is a human right.

This work brings us to the front lines in the fight for housing as a human right and it will take a broad, diverse coalition of people to win, that includes you. Please contact holly@jcua.org to find out how you can get involved.

Read the Chicago Tribune’s account of the event

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