Testimony before the United Nations

Carol Steele
Chicago, IL
July 1998

http://universityofthepoor.org/newsite/doc/stories/il-carol.html

Today I come to talk about what’s happening in Chicago. My name is Carol and I was born on the land that eventually became Francis Cabrini Extension. I’m a single mother of three sons. Now I reside in public housing called Francis Cabrini Homes. My sons are neither gang members nor are they drugsellers.

Back in 1955, I as a child watched them build what eventually became Francis Cabrini Extensions. Our family was one of the first families to move into the high rise in 1957. The reason I’m talking to you today is because I feel very strongly about my community and being displaced out of it.

Back in 1992, then-Chairman and Executive Director of Chicago Housing, Vince Lancy, introduced what he called Hope VI, supposed to be the revitalization of public housing. When they began to develop plans for our new schools, our new stores, we were joyful because we thought we were to benefit from such plans.

But, as time went on we began to see these plans were not for the current residents of Cabrini. Because we were located on such prime land, a block from Michigan Avenue (what they call “the magnificent mile”), only fifteen percent of our community people was going to be allowed to stay in that development.

So, we began to investigate and found out that Hope VI had to include residents’ input before it could go forward. So what we decided to do was get us a lawyer and put a lawsuit in against the Chicago Housing Authority and the City of Chicago so we wouldn’t lose 3,600 units of public housing. We filed an injunction against them so they would allow us to sit at the table and plan for ourselves, because who knows better to plan for them than ourselves?

At this present time we are in negotiation with the Chicago Housing Authority to make sure that all our public housing is put back and redeveloped for the residents. Wardell Yotaghn and myself formed a coalition to protect public housing because it was not just happening to Cabrini Green, it was happening to all of the public housing in the city of Chicago that was around prime land.

As our coalition became stronger, more and more people began to get more involved, we began to find out that it wasn’t just Chicago, it was happening in a lot of other states that were located in prime areas.

We believe a wide variety of people will become homeless due to the Hope VI program. We also believe Congress OCRA 202 is vouchering out tenants, which will also make thousands of people homeless.

They are telling us that they are going to give us Section 8 vouchers, so we can move. However, out of every five families that go out there and look for an apartment in Chicago, there is only one apartment available.
Under the 1937 Housing Act, it calls for one-for-one replacement, for every unit they tear down, they must replace it with another one. Since 1996 they have suspended that law. So, we say we want all the buildings to be rehabilitated because a standing building is guaranteed housing for people, not an empty promise of a Section 8 Housing voucher for housing that does not exist.