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Cabrini Green
Protest about the recent efforts to evict people at
Cabrin Green in Chicago.
PHOTO/Chicago Anti-Eviction Campai gn

By Joseph Peery for the People’s Tribune
Editors note:  After a holiday moratorium, Cook County Sheriffs Officers resumed evictions in the Chicago area.  One of their targets was Cabrini Green, where as many as 14 families may have been evicted.  The following is an excerpt from an interview with Willie Fleming, a long time resident of Cabrini Green and an organizer for the Chicago Anti- Eviction Campaign.

People’s Tribune: Can you give us an update on the eviction of Lenise Forrest and others in Cabrini Green?
Willie Fleming: Lenise’s eviction has gotten stranger as time transpired.  Her belongings were seized by the management company and held for eight days, violating her rights. Several national legal institutions are looking at this case.  For instance, the housing authority was contracted to provide residents with services to help them become economically self sufficient, like the Section 3 Program, which is supposed to supply jobs. Other federal grants are to help prevent residents from being evicted or becoming homeless. The inability to provide Lenise and others with these tools may open a window of opportunity or technicality in the law.  If it’s the responsibility of the housing authority and their social service agencies to deliver protective services to residents and that doesn’t happen, then what went wrong?  This sheds new light on the evicted residents as not perpetrators of crime, but as victims.  And so, how do we give victims assistance in all the small technicalities that may come up?  We’re trying to figure out what that means for all the evicted.  There’s no instant answer.  It’s going to take people stepping forward like in Lenise’s case where the cost to evict her was far greater than if they would have allowed her to stay.  When she was evicted, money was spent on extra police and private security, maintenance workers, movers and public relations.  What’s really going on here? I mean in whose interest does the housing authority have in mind — those companies getting paid all this money or the people?
PT: You described this as a seizure and not just an eviction, Why didn’t they put Lenise’s things on the street like what’s usually done?
WF: There was a huge police show of force to prevent her from going back into the house to retrieve her things.  They wanted to make an example of Lenise, to let it be known this is what will happen to anyone who puts up a fight.  We then found out her house was broken into and some of her things were stolen after the eviction took place.
PT: With such a large police presence, how was someone able to break in?
WF: Both the Chicago Police and armed private security were there protecting that unit so that we,  the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign,  don’t move her back in, so that we, the Chicago Anti Eviction Campaign,  don’t help her exercise her constitutional right to gather her belongings.  Now what’s the likelihood of someone breaking in and not being directly tied to the police or security?
PT: What about the young man that was shot?
WF: A guy was shot less than a block away.  You’ve got police out there, news media and residents who have come out to see what’s going on, and this person is hit by gun fire as he comes running around the corner and he drops within feet of the police.  The police look at him bleeding there and then turn around and walk back toward us as if they have decided it is more important that all of them defend that property than see to the needs of that human being bleeding on the street.

The second part of this interview will be in the March edition of the People’s Tribune

Cabrini Green
Protest about the recent efforts to evict people at
Cabrin Green in Chicago.
PHOTO/Chicago Anti-Eviction Campai gn

By Eric Sheptock

In Washington, D.C., homeless advocates align their activities with the annual budgetary cycle. During the February-May budget hearings, advocates for the poor and homeless do their best to have sufficient tax revenue allocated for the populations they serve. 
When budgets are cut in the middle of the fiscal year, many will return to City Hall to demand that those budget cuts be restored and that the social safety net be preserved.
But now, the safety net is in peril. City Hall tried to cut the budget for homeless services by 30 percent. But when Catholic Charities threatened to cease its shelter operations in the capital altogether, the mayor scrambled to restore $11 million of the $16 million cut.       
He thus averted a tragedy right before hypothermia season -- and also a lawsuit. However, this is only a reprieve; the fight is expected to heat up in the spring. 
Advocates fear that the city will spend more than five months’ worth of its homeless services budget during the hypothermia season and then decrease homeless services in the spring, owing to budget shortfalls. This will result in a large number of homeless people losing their shelter beds.
People are already preparing psychologically for a different kind of fight — a fight against the all-out, elimination of social services. On January 19, a Washington Post article explained: “Service centers that process welfare and other aid applications in the District are understaffed and overwhelmed with needy residents, forcing some to essentially camp out for days to try to get assistance.”
Mayor Adrian Fenty closed two Income Maintenance Administration service centers last year to save just under $1 million. This resulted in as many as 350 people per day showing up at one of the remaining service centers, which can only serve 150 people.
As many as 100 people get turned away at the end of the work day without being served, often after waiting in line for eight hours. This is in the capital of the wealthiest nation in the world.
Meanwhile, right-to-housing advocates are planning takeovers of empty housing. Leaders of successful takeovers in other cities are coming to D.C. to teach their tactics.
Other activists are circulating a petition to “recall” (oust, get rid of) Mayor Fenty, who has broken many campaign promises — including the promise to create affordable housing. While ousting Fenty won’t change the system, it will empower the residents by proving that they can actually pull it off.
Finally, an increasing number of people are getting involved in advocacy. High schools and colleges in the D.C. area are requiring students to learn about homelessness. My fellow homeless advocates and I regularly speak to student groups and have begun to organize students, thus increasing our support base.
It is not yet clear how all of these efforts will jell, but it is just a matter of time. This much is certain: our work is changing. The homeless and the poor are seeing the rug pulled out from under them and are on the verge of going into “survival mode.” Those who are involved in the national movement are preparing to descend on the city. And the number of young, local activists is increasing.
It would seem that all of the ingredients of a movement for fundamental change — in effect, a revolution — are there just waiting to be stirred.
As a city, we have begun to shift away from begging for social-service funding and toward realizing that our government is not going to save us and that we must organize and create change.

Eric Sheptock is a leader of the homeless in Washington, D.C. He is also part of the national Right-to-Housing Movement.  Read more commentary on his blog, “On the Clock With Eric Sheptock” (streatstv.blogspot.com).

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