by Lindsay Welbers
June 26, 2008 – Students enrolled in the Social Justice Academy at Kelvyn Park High School have produced a documentary called “Shelter: One Community’s Struggle” which highlights the concern of some that rising housing costs could push out longtime Logan Square residents.
“We chose gentrification because we saw it happening right here,” said Yesendy Jaime, a sophomore at Kelvyn Park High School who is involved with the school’s Social Justice Academy .
The students and community organizers behind the 50 minute documentary, which was shown earlier this month, hope the project will prompt Ald. Rey Colon (35th) to take action to slow gentrification in the West Side neighborhood.
Colon rejected a plan to convert a vacant building at 2800 N. Milwaukee Ave. into more than 40 supportive housing units, in favor of artists lofts.
Supportive housing is for low income families and people who would otherwise face homelessness, according to the nonprofit Corporation for Supportive Housing . It also offers social services such as healthcare, employment and mental health outreach for residents.
“He’s Colon chosen to advocate his power,” said Juliet de Jesus Alejandre, education organizer of the Logan Square Neighborhood Association . “Who do we go to then, if our alderman who is supposed to be there for us, is not?” said Alejandre.
Colon said he received other proposals, but he chose the one which made the most sense to him.
“The requested proposal was affordable,” said Colon . “One was supportive, the other was not, but it amounted to about a $10 million difference – it was kind of a no brainer.”
Colon said the artists’ lofts will be affordable housing and the rents will not be much different from supportive housing costs.
The proposal still needs to be approved by the Zoning Committee, before moving to the full City Council for a vote.
The Logan Square Neighborhood Association views Colon’s choice as a slap in the face, according to Alejandre, who brought a petition signed by 600 people to a rally outside a community meeting last April.
Colon said he is considering additional supportive housing units in Logan Square, but it is still in the planning stages. He said 17 different sites are currently under consideration.
Until then, Logan Square residents like Alejandre promise to continue their housing fight.
“Still our struggle will continue,” said Alejandre. “Supportive housing will come to the 35th ward.”