Ald. Burns ignoring needs of seniors

To the Editor:

Dating back to April of 2012, seniors from Judge Slater Apartments and Judge Slater Annex, just north of 43rd Street on Cottage Grove Avenue, have mailed in excess of 30 letters of complaint to Ald. Will Burns (4th), the Chicago Housing Authority and others about the deplorable health and safety conditions that we have endured. The Involved Seniors for Justice of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (ISJ of KOCO), is comprised of senior citizens that reside in Judge Slater Apartments, Judge Slater Annex and the Vivian Harsh Apartments that represent more than 570 units of housing in the North Kenwood community in the Fourth Ward. These buildings are all managed by the Woodlawn Development Corporation (WCDC).

More than a year later, there has still been no relief for the seniors. While the conditions in the above-mentioned buildings moved Mary Mitchell to highlight them on the front page of the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper on Feb. 19, 2013, we are not aware of Ald. Burns making his own observations in the buildings to assist us in resolving the issues which are impacting so many of his elderly constituents. We have, however, received notification this week that Ald. Burns is now working to schedule a walk-through. How long does it take to schedule time to walk around a building to observe what Mary Mitchell was able to document within 30 minutes? This appears to be an ongoing pattern of disregard and disrespect for seniors and their plight.

Moreover, on June 24, 2013, at a Fourth Ward community meeting, Ald. Burns agreed to meet with the Involved Seniors for Justice of KOCO concerning these urgent issues. On June 24, representatives from three buildings were present at the agreed upon location, but he never arrived. We did not receive any notification from his office to indicate that he would not honor the agreement to meet with us seniors – many of whom are more than 70 years old.

Some of our concerns are:

  1. Safety and health concerns of the residents of buildings WCDC manages. Senior citizens are forced to live in unsafe and unsanitary conditions. For example, fire doors and extinguishers are locked, and the buildings are infested with roaches and bedbugs;
  2. Inconsistent application of the Admissions and Continued Occupancy Policy (ACOP), which is meant to be the standard guidelines to be followed by tenants and management to stay in compliance with the rules and regulations of the Chicago Housing Authority. The building manager currently picks and chooses when she is going to follow the rules, and with whom she is going to enforce the rules at her complete discretion;
  3. Rampant disrespect of seniors and people with disabilities. Senior citizens have been subjected to physical, verbal and emotional abuse by management staff; and
  4. Substandard material and construction in the $20 million dollar rehab of the Judge Slater complex.

The Involved Seniors for Justice of KOCO previously requested a meeting with Ald. Burns on March 27, 2013 at the King Center to discuss the aforementioned building conditions with him. While Ald. Burns and his staff were present at the agreed-upon date and location, instead of meeting with us as agreed, his response was to invite us into a meeting with the management company that we were concerned about with over 70 other people in attendance! We requested a meeting with Ald. Burns. At this meeting, however, he did agree to meet with the Involved Seniors for Justice of KOCO, CHA and WCDC to conduct bi-monthly walk-throughs in order to monitor building conditions and address residents’ concerns to begin in May. Despite his agreement and our consistent follow-up with him to schedule a date for the first walk-through, there has been no further communication or action from him or his staff to hold to that commitment. A walk-through would afford him the opportunity to view the conditions of our buildings and for him to hear from many residents that are elderly and disabled that often find it difficult to leave their buildings.

In addition to the meetings discussed above, we’ve also made several other requests of Rev. Leon Finney (Chairman of WCDC) and Alderman Burns to get their support in resolving our issues, but the poor conditions and poor treatment that we are facing still hasn’t been fully addressed. The issues have not disappeared, and as Fourth Ward constituents we all have a responsibility to hold him accountable for the deplorable conditions that seniors and disabled residents are being forced to live in within the ward, more particularly in: Judge Slater Apartments, Judge Slater Annex and Vivian Harsh Apartments. Until these issues and concerns are addressed, we will not sit by and be disrespected and dismissed. Seniors must be treated with dignity and deserve respect that their years have earned them. We will not stand by and watch seniors and disabled, low income and working residents be treated like animals. Ald. Burns should heed the concerns voiced by seniors and all of his constituents in the Fourth Ward. Seniors and everyone in the Fourth Ward deserve elected officials that are accountable to all the people that they represent. We must all work together to remind them of their responsibilities to us — the people.

Alphonso Jones
Carol Moody
Lawrence Ratliff
Frances Banks
Joel Bengad
Duchess Gunn
Cassandra Staples
Minnie Jefferson
Trisha Hardison
Dorothy Ellis
Involved Seniors for Justice of KOCO