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CHA Boss: We'll Look into Way to Reinstate Some Purged from Waiting List

By Wendell Hutson | September 12, 2013 9:50am
 The Chicago Housing Authority recently cut more than 47,000 people from its popular waiting list for public housing assistance.
Housing List
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BRONZEVILLE — People who had their names purged from the CHA's public housing waiting list this year might get a second chance

At a public hearing this week, Chicago Housing Authority CEO Charles Woodyard said he'd look into ways for people whose names were taken off the list to get back on it.

"We will look into that. I can't make any promises but we will see," Woodyard said when asked by an applicant about an appeal process.

An appeal process was in place earlier this year for those who missed a Feb. 28 deadline to contact the CHA, according to Wendy Parks, a spokeswoman for the housing agency. The list has now been cut in half after applicants failed to contact the agency to update their files.

“A total of 42,027 wait list applicants completed the wait list survey,” said Parks. “A total of 47,536 applicants said they were no longer interested in CHA housing or did not respond and have been removed from the wait list.”

When applicants are first placed on the list they are told it is their responsibility to always maintain a current mailing address and phone number on file, CHA officials said.

About 200 people attended the Tuesday public hearing at the Charles Hayes Center, 4859 S. Wabash Ave., and most had been purged from the list, including Mary Nelson.

“I have been on the list since 2010. And as much as I have called the CHA I have gotten nothing but the run around from them,” said Nelson, who lives in a women's shelter in Lakeview. “Hopefully I am still on the list because I am in need of permanent housing.”

The 60-year-old mother of four adult children had been waiting to move into a senior citizens building and said she became homeless after losing her job due to an illness.

Parks added that the housing agency attempted to reach applicants through their last known address, phone number and email on file. It also used broadcast and print advertisements and distributed community fliers as well.

“CHA contacted 89,563 applicants by multiple contacts (and we) partnered with hundreds of stakeholders, community leaders and a host of organizations,” Parks said.

Shatara Uhunmwangho, 33, said originally she was purged from the list but was able to get back on it earlier this year through an appeal. She is on the list waiting to receive a Housing Choice Voucher [often referred to as Section 8] which helps pay rent at privately owned apartment buildings, provided the landlord accepts the vouchers.

"The CHA did not do a good enough job contacting people," said the single mother of a 6-year-old daughter. "When I learned I might be purged I filed an appeal [in time] and was able to stay on the list. I have been waiting for housing for three years and I am not going to give up now."

Uhunmwangho said she and her daughter have been living since November 2011 in a shelter in South Chicago after her separation from her husband. But now her time at the shelter is running out.

"There's a two-year maximum at the shelter, which for me is this November," added Uhunmwangho. "If my housing has not come through by then, I'm not sure what me and my daughter will do."

Leah Levinger, executive director of the Chicago Housing Initiative, assisted Uhunmwangho in filing her appeal and attended the public hearing.

"It's a shame what the CHA is doing to people desperately in need of housing. Their outreach efforts fell short in contacting applicants in time before their names were removed from the list, a list many people have been on for years," Levinger said.

Denaice Wright considers herself one of the lucky ones. She lives in a one-bedroom apartment in South Chicago, but still wants to receive a voucher so she can move back to the North Side.

"I used to live in Lakeview and I am hoping that I can get a Section 8 so I can go back because it's too violent on the South Side," said Wright, a 47-year-old certified nursing assistant. "I never received anything from the CHA telling me I needed to update my file. I found out two days before the deadline by word of mouth. That's how most people found out. But by that time it was too late."