Story by: Corneal Westbrooks
August 20, 2008 – The theme of the night was, “people, power, and promise” when the
This was not an ordinary meeting, but a festive event. There was music and laughter at a celebration of 15 years worth of accomplishments. Some of these milestones include prompting the Chicago Police Department to create a permanent nighttime bike patrol as part of a project to reduce hate crimes and improve community policing; the preservation of affordable housing through Section 8; the creation of affordable housing through set-asides; and the championing of commitments from Advocate Illinois Masonic and local politicians to address local healthcare needs.
Since the Chicago Police Department shakeup in which 21 of 25 district commanders were replaced last March, the LAC has met twice with new Commanders John Kenny and Kathleen Boehmer of the 19th and 23rd districts. Together, they have started a project to identify officers who would be willing to work directly and constructively with youth. LAC members have also met with Deputy Police Supt. Peter Brust, who also attended the meeting, and who agreed to help bring their concerns directly to Supt. Jody Weis. The LAC has developed a task force that continues to work to make the neighborhood a safe harbor for homeless, runaway, and at-risk youth.
Lakeview East, commonly known as Boystown, has been a safe haven for homeless and LGBT youth. However, in December 2006, an 18-month study by the LAC found 112 incidents of police abuse of the homeless and LGBT youth in the 19th and 23rd districts. The LAC’s Web site still notes 10 to 20 reports monthly of racial profiling, illegal searches, verbal abuse, threats or physical violence. As Lakeview becomes increasingly gentrified, its eclectic character will deteriorate without affordable housing, the LAC notes in its prepared material.
“Housing is not a privilege, it’s a human right, and Lakeview is no exception, ” says Barbara Campbell, a Section 8 tenant and LAC Board member.
During the meeting, the LAC focused on three neighborhood buildings as affordable housing: the Diplomat Hotel, the Britton/Bud Apartments and the Belmont Tower Apartments. The Diplomat is a Single Room Occupancy at 3208 N. Sheffield Ave. that LAC is trying to preserve for individuals who would otherwise be homeless. The Britton/Bud Apartments at 501 W. Surf St. has 173 affordable units.
The Britton-Bud building is no longer exclusively owned by CHA, but by a partnership that includes CHA. Rehabilitation began July 17 and 172 units of public senior housing should be available by the fall of 2009, according to CHA spokesman Matt Aguilar.
The Belmont Towers, 510 W. Belmont Ave., is a 288-unit, Project-Based Section 8 complex whose mortgage with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development expires in 2010.
State Reps. Sara Feigenholtz and John Fritchey, both Chicago Democrats, said at the meeting they would build alliances among their colleagues and fight for $100 million a year for five years for affordable housing in the state’s capital budget. It would be a first-time line item.
Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), agreed to continue to do everything in his power to ensure that the owner of the Diplomat fixes the building or sells it to someone who will preserve and improve it as affordable SRO housing. Ald. Helen Shiller (46th) also attended the meeting.
The community was well represented at the LAC annual meeting by religious congregations such as the Broadway United Church of Christ and the Lake View Presbyterian Church; non-profit organizations such as the Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach, the Center on Halsted, Deborah’s Place, Youth Pride Center, Central Lake View Merchants Association and the North Side Community Federal Community Union.
Activities started with music from the Second Unitarian Ensemble and the Youth Drum Corp and a prayer from Rabbi Daniel Cotzin Burg. They ended with a call to action for all those in attendance.
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