Chicago’s Heartland Alliance admits placing clients in slums

Buried in the middle of a lengthy article in the Chicago Journal is mention of the Heartland Alliance, a subcontractor of the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, placing its clients (presumably including its refugee clients) in buildings that by all accounts are horrific slums.

For years, residents have blamed a raft of buildings for causing havoc in the Edgewater neighborhood.

Drug dealing and other criminal activity were a weekly, if not daily occurrence at the three buildings located at 4940, 5718 and 6019 N. Winthrop. Now, it appears as if there finally may be some resolution to a long-time neighborhood headache.

Taxpayer supported housing called an “outrage.”

Touted as offering affordable low-income housing, the six buildings received a combined $410,962 in subsidies according to a first quarter 2008 report from the city’s Low Income Housing Trust Fund, a program in which building owners can apply for rental subsidies to reduce rent for the poorest of the poor.

Ald. Mary Ann Smith (48th Ward) called the Winthrop buildings an outrage. There is no reason, she said, that subsidized housing shouldn’t be extraordinary and accountable to the same laws for non-subsidized rental housing.

“This neighborhood has worked hard for 35 years to deal with bad buildings and bad landlords,” Smith said. “The people in these buildings cannot advocate for themselves, it’s an absolute outrage. I can’t imagine any of us who have a family member with challenges would want that person to be in a building with exposed wires and plumbing backups. Here, we have the public sector subsidizing bad buildings. We have to hold them accountable the same way we hold the private sector accountable.”

The building cases are winding through the court system.

According to inspection reports obtained from the Chicago Department of Buildings, city inspectors found 57 alleged code violations at 5718 N. Winthrop in 2008. The violations ranged from deteriorating exterior walls, a defective roof, damaged doors and windows, unsanitary plumbing fixtures, backed-up sewage in tubs and sinks, and exposed wiring and outlet boxes. The building was also cited for roaches and other insect infestations.

Forty-eight code violations were found at 6019 N. Winthrop and 11 at 4940 N. Winthrop in 2008. Both buildings are winding through the housing court system.

Heartland Alliance for Human Needs and Human Rights admits placing clients (poor immigrants or poor Americans, it doesn’t matter)  in these buildings that have been a blight on the neighborhood for decades.

Andrew Geer, vice president and executive director of the affordable and supportive housing initiative for Heartland Alliance, acknowledged that some tenants who have identified themselves as Heartland clients have signed leases at 5718 ad 6019 N. Winthrop.

“We have rental subsidies in buildings and resident may or may not be receiving services,” Geer said. “We do inspections twice a year. Our response is to work collectively and collaboratively with the city and whoever is providing the subsidy to address housing issues.”

Geer said that issues surrounding certain building owners who receive subsidies highlight the lack of quality affordable housing for low-income residents throughout the city, who might otherwise find themselves homeless.

Huh?   What a bunch of double-talk!   How does that answer the question of why Heartland Alliance came to put clients into buildings that were known slums.

Here is what Heartland Alliance says on their website. Yeh, right!

We build and advocate for safe, high-quality housing and supportive services for people experiencing homelessness, poverty, or chronic illness.

Heartland Alliance has a past history of refugee neglect.

The Chicago Journal article doesn’t specifically say that Heartland Alliance has refugees in these buildings, just “clients,” but based on a report we did a year ago, here, the Heartland Alliance has a history of neglecting refugees and was accused in 2001 of putting refugees in dilapidated bug-infested apartments.   The State Department supposedly investigated and then did NOTHING!

Then here is more hypocrisy!

I thought Heartland Alliance sounded familiar from my research on Obama’s community organizing involvement and his time on the Woods Fund Board of Directors with former domestic terrorist Bill Ayers.  So, I went to the most recent Woods Fund  Form 990 (2007)  (Ayers is still on the Board) to see if they were supporting Heartland Alliance.  Sure enough in a section of the 990 where grants are listed, in a section entitled, Intersection of Community Organizing and Public Policy (you gotta laugh) is a $40,000 grant to the Heartland Alliance.   So, is the money used for political “organizing” or for helping real people?

I guess the old expression, do as I say, not as I do, applies here.

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