Residents and community leaders marched through the Julie C. Lathrop Homes on Chicago’s Northwest Side in December to protest what they say is a broken promise by the Chicago Housing Authority to renovate the low-rise public housing development.
The procession, called “Las Posadas” after the Spanish word for “inn,” involved youth dressed as biblical characters as they reenacted the story of Mary and Joseph searching for room at an inn before the first Christmas.
The two teens dressed as Mary and Joseph, along with about 50 residents, members of the Logan Square Neighborhood Association and the Logan Square Ecumenical Alliance, walked door-to-door seeking shelter in the mostly-vacant housing development.
At each door, the group was turned away just like the biblical story, until they reached the final door at New Life Community Church, 2958 N. Damen Ave.
“We are Mary and Joseph,” said Titus Kerby, president of the Lathrop Homes Local Advisory Council who’s lived at Lathrop Homes for over 20 years.
“(CHA) is turning us away as well, and what are we going to do about that? Every Mary out there, every Joseph out there, we must stand up and find room at the inn,” Kerby said.
In 2000, the Chicago Housing Authority submitted its “Plan For Transformation” to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The plan outlined how CHA would renovate the Lathrop Homes.
The housing development located near the Chicago River was “being considered for potentially mixed-income and mixed finance properties,” according to the plan.
The plan calls for 1,200 units divided into three equal parts: public housing units, affordable housing units and market-rate housing units.
But with over 800 apartments vacant for years now and only 146 residents currently living in the development, it’s an injustice, Kerby said.
“I’ve been working on this since I became alderman,” said Moreno, who was elected in 2010. “And there’s this mass dysfunction at the CHA in getting this project moving forward.”
Matthew Aguilar, a spokesman for CHA said in a statement the organization continues to work together with residents, community partners and local officials “to help build a strong, vibrant mixed-income Lathrop Homes community.”
The statement went on to say, “As the agency makes progress on the master planning process, we are continuing to meet with a host of key stakeholders during the Lathrop Homes working group meetings.”
The statement doesn’t say how often CHA meets with residents or when the organization last met with residents.
Ellen Ray, former president of the Logan Square Neighborhood Association marched along side residents in support of affordable housing being made available to residents at Lathrop Homes.
Ray said maintaining affordable housing in Logan Square has been an ongoing issue.
“The fight around affordability is a multi-decade fight in this community because of the realities of gentrification,” Ray said. “And I think Lathrop Homes has always had sort of a to-be-determined stamp on it by CHA.”