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Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
Mon Oct 7, 2013

Census Bureau: Poverty Rate Remains High In Illinois

Recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau show that Illinois’ poverty rate continued to hover near 15 percent last year.

According to the new American Community Survey data, 14.7 percent Illinoisans, or 1.85 million people, were living in poverty in 2012. That’s not much of a statistical change from 2011, when 15 percent of people, or 1.88 million, were in poverty.

At the national level, the poverty rate also remained fixed last year at 15 percent, impacting some 46.5 million Americans.

“Both nationally and in Illinois, more people were working over the course of the year, and that didn’t translate into decreased poverty,” said Amy Terpstra, associate director of the Heartland Alliance’s Social IMPACT Research Center.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
Thu Sep 26, 2013

Former Ickes Residents Urge CHA To Provide Replacement Housing: ‘We Just Want To Come Home’

Chicago Public Housing activists say it is unacceptable that the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) has once again broken its promise to deliver replacement housing units for former residents of the now demolished Harold Ickes Homes, which saw its last families move out in 2010.

The Ickes public housing buildings on the near South Side had more than 1,000 units before they were torn down between 2009 to 2010. CHA has yet to bring back 312 replacement units that it promised to construct, and it appears there are no concrete plans to build any of them in 2014, according to CHA’s proposed 2014 Moving to Work (MTW) Annual Plan.

On Thursday, more than a dozen former Ickes residents and their supporters gathered at a vacant lot at State Street and Cermak Road, one of the former Ickes sites.

“It is unfortuante that every time that housing numbers were supposed to be promised, those numbers were reduced,” said the Rev. Robert Jones of Mt. Carmel Missionary Baptist Church. “The city talks about the economics, but yet money is found to put a tremendously large DePaul center not very far from here, and yet we still have this vacant field.”

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
Tue Sep 24, 2013

Chicago’s Public Employees Want New Contract With Fair Wages, Privatization Safeguards

Chicago public employees picketed downtown Tuesday, calling on Mayor Rahm Emanuel to settle a new union contract with AFSCME Council 31 that includes decent wages that keep up with inflation.

A new contract must also include “common sense” rules meant to prevent bad privatization deals and protect public services and workers, according to the dozens of public employees who protested near City Hall.

The union’s previous contract with the city was set to expire July 1, 2012, but it was temporarily extended. Workers have been at the bargaining table with the city bartering over a new contract for more than a year and a half.

“Any company should want to pay their employees fair wages but the transparency with the privatization, it’s really a huge issue, because what (the mayor) is basically trying to do is sell off the city of Chicago,” said Nicole Herron, who’s worked in the city’s finance department for 18 years. “If he does that, we lose a huge part of the middle class and lower-class people who make up a bulk of the city.”

Quick Hit
by Ashlee Rezin
Fri Sep 13, 2013

Protesters Call On First Merit Bank To Support Low-Income Tenants, Be A ‘Responsible Lender’ (VIDEO)

By providing BJB Properties, and other building owners, with financial support for the purchase and renovation of housing developments in Chicago, First Merit Bank is an accomplice to the decimation of the city’s affordable housing, according to a group of protesters who took their message to a downtown branch on Friday.

“They’re not investing money to develop communities, they’re investing money based on real estate speculation. That’s not in the best interest of the tenants,” said Marc Kaplan, one of roughly 10 participants in Friday’s rally and a member of Northside Action for Justice. “There’s no affordable housing left on the North Side.”

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
Thu Sep 12, 2013

Public Housing Activists: CHA’s Plan To Purge 47,000 People From Wait List ‘Unacceptable’

Housing activists are outraged that Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) officials are looking to remove more than 47,000 people from its public housing and voucher wait list as proposed in its Moving to Work (MTW) Annual Plan for fiscal year 2014.

“I am stunned by CHA’s decision to strip so many people permanently off the list and to deprive them of a chance for affordable housing,” Mary Nelson, who is homeless and currently on the wait list, said before CHA’s public hearing Wednesday evening regarding the draft plan.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
Fri Sep 6, 2013

Study: Poverty Skyrockets In Chicago Suburbs

The share of people experiencing poverty in the Chicago region was split evenly between the suburbs and the city as of 2011, a new study by the Heartland Alliance’s Social IMPACT Research Center shows.

The 50-50 balance is a drastic change compared to 1990, when about 66 percent of the region’s poor people lived in the city, while 34 percent lived in the suburbs.

By 2011, nearly 630,000 suburbanites were living in poverty, which is a 95 percent increase from 1990, according to the ”Poverty Matters” report. That increase far outpaced the overall 29 percent suburban population growth from 1990 to 2011. Meanwhile, the number of Chicagoans living in poverty remained about the same during that time period.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
Thu Aug 22, 2013

Rogers Park Residents Set To Be Evicted Call On Ald. Moore For Help (VIDEO)

Affordable housing activists and tenants of the Astor House on Pratt Boulevard held a prayer vigil and protest outside Ald. Joe Moore’s (49th) office in Rogers Park Wednesday evening.

The approximately 30 protestors called on Moore to “stand for affordable housing” and help convene a meeting between the Astor House’s low-income tenants and the building’s new owner, BJB Properties, which took over the property in October.

The activists say the Astor House, 1246 W. Pratt Blvd., is one of the only remaining affordable housing buildings left in Rogers Park, and BJB is attempting to evict some of the lower-income residents so the property can be rehabbed and marketed to Loyola University students at higher rents. A handful of the building’s tenants are set to be evicted in the next two weeks, the protestors said.

“Many of these families have nowhere to go but the street,” said the Rev. Kenneth Wesbrooks of a Work of Faith Ministries in Rogers Park. “They wont be in shelters. They wont be in SROs. They will be on the street.” 

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
Wed Aug 14, 2013

CPS Calls For New Charters As Schools Grapple With Deep Budget Cuts

The Chicago Public Schools (CPS) opened up its application process Monday for new charter schools that will help alleviate neighborhood school overcrowding and provide every student with “a world class education.”

The call for new charters, slated to open in the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years, comes after the Chicago Board of Education voted in May to close a record-breaking 50 neighborhood schools, primarily in low-income and minority communities, due to the district’s reported underutilization crisis. In June, 48 elementary schools closed their doors for good.

On top of the recent round of closings, schools have also been dealing with massive budget cuts this summer due to the district’s new per-student budgeting system. More than 3,000 CPS employees have been let go this summer due to school closures, turnarounds and budgetary reasons thus far.

“How can CPS be opening up charter schools that then will attempt to siphon off, and probably will siphon off, students from the public schools who are concerned about the diminishing quality of their education,” asked Pauline Lipman, professor of educational policy studies and director of the Collaborative for Equity and Justice in Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago.