CHICAGO — More than 20 senior citizens met outside the headquarters of the Chicago Housing Authority Tuesday to protest what they called deplorable living conditions at some senior residences.
The seniors braved the cold to call on the CHA to address issues like bug infestations and mistreatment by management staff at four apartment buildings.
Frances Banks, 71, said she has been living in the Judge Slater Annex for almost 10 years.
"I've come out here because we're being disrespected," Banks said.
She said her building is "infested" with mice, bedbugs and roaches.
"Can you imagine getting ready to open your refrigerator, and you see a roach in your freezer? When you lay down in your bed, you've got roaches in your bed?" Banks asked. "It's deplorable, and we seniors should not have to live like this."
Lawrence Ratliff, 66, who lives in the Judge Slater Apartments, said his major complaint is how the staff treats the residents.
"They intimidate people," Ratliff said. "They tell you if you don't do certain things, they'll find excuses to write you up."
Ratliff said if a resident is written up a certain number of times then that resident faces eviction.
The four CHA apartment buildings highlighted in Tuesday's protest are all managed by the Woodlawn Community Development Corporation. The organization's CEO is Rev. Leon Finney, a well-known South Side pastor who was active in the 1960s' civil rights movement in Chicago.
Alphonso Jones, another participant in Tuesday's protest, said the group has been requesting meetings with Finney for about three weeks. Jones said Finney has not agreed to meet with the group, instead sending another member of the WCDC in his place, but Jones said the group insisted on meeting directly with Finney.
"What's so hard about having a meeting to address issues that your company can take care of?" Jones said. "But he don't intend to meet with us."
Jones and other residents like Banks said they have also written dozens of letters to the Chicago Housing Authority and lawmakers like U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Chicago) for months but have not seen anything change.
Banks said she refuses to call Finney "Reverend" because of the way she is being treated by his organization.
"They are slumlords, slum landlords," Banks said.
WCDC staff declined to comment on the subject, but management at the Judge Slater Annex dismissed claims of verbal abuse or intimidation and said they are working to address the building's pest control problem. The building's manager said the building currently has five cases of bedbugs, down from almost 300 cases two years ago.
In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, the CHA stated it works closely with its property management teams to "ensure that all of our residents have a quality living experience.
Commenting of the Judge Slater Apartments directly, CHA spokesman Matthew Aguilar reaffirmed that WCDC addresses issues like mice and bugs infestations on a monthly basis.
"At the Judge Slater Apartments, the property management team has monthly pest control inspections and treatments and will continue to address the issue," Aguilar said in the statement
"Since July 2012, the CHA has undertaken a $13.5 million construction project in capital maintenance activities at Judge Slater Apartments and is on track with the construction schedule," Aguilar said in the statement, adding the first phase of construction is expected to be completed by early next year.
But residents like Lawrence Ratliff said Tuesday they just want to management to listen to their concerns.
"I would like to see management cooperate with the seniors more," Ratliff said. "I would like them to stop treating us like we children."