Activists occupy vacant Chicago public residence

On Friday, around 35 people gathered outside a four-bedroom house in Humboldt Park to enjoy some sunshine, music and food. They were positioned there to act as a barrier between the people living in the house and those trying to get them out.

The house was one of four homes in which about 12 people were “illegally locked up” on July 26, said Emma Tamplin, a 26-year-old social researcher who is helping those who built the 1629 N. Called Washtnow Avenue your home. year.

Kady Williams, 39, and Wilson Mather-Glass, 25, are two of them. They said they left on January 1 after seeing a homeless encampment in the neighborhood, while a large number of homes reportedly owned by the Chicago Housing Authority remained vacant.

As per the city records, the housing authority had possession of N.N. The property is owned on Washtenaw Avenue.

Williams said there were no reports of evictions prior to July 26, when Hispanic Housing Development Corp. employees allegedly showed the house and removed some of their belongings and asked Williams, Mather-Glass, and a third roommate, who it was Friday. out of town, to remove the rest.

“They broke down our door, broke a bunch of our things, bullied us, used a lot of homophobic and transphobic slurs,” Williams said.

A representative for the Hispanic Housing Development Corporation said on Friday that all requests for comment would be sent to the CHA.

In a statement, the housing authority said, “CHA takes these issues seriously and follows all due legal procedures to remove illegal people from our property. We have seen the video of the encounter on 26th July and are concerned about this.” Concerned how our third party property manager handled this situation and this incident is being investigated.

As of Friday, Williams and Mather-Glass have made their way inside the house with their belongings. Williams said occupying vacant homes is a way of taking a stand against the housing authority’s “practice of keeping vacant homes for years.”

Tamplin, Williams and Mather-Glass call their initiative the “Humboldt Park Housing Project.”

According to the city’s building permit and inspection records, 1629 N. The Washington Avenue home had several code violations as of 2019, including not registering the building within 30 days of vacating or taking over ownership of the existing vacant. building. The house was also cited for a failure to maintain the exterior walls and to keep the structure free of holes, breaks and any other conditions that could allow rain or moisture into the walls.

Williams, who works as a teacher and is also majoring in civil engineering, said it was clear the house was not built to last. “None of these vacant houses have been maintained because they are all falling apart,” Williams said. “Then that’s their excuse to leave them blank.”

The housing authority said it maintains over 16,000 units of public housing and that a portion of the units are vacant at any one time for a variety of reasons, including scheduled redevelopment, works such as painting and minor repairs, and those undergoing more extensive capital improvement work. units are included. ,

As soon as the units are ready for occupancy, they are offered to applicants on the housing authority’s public housing waiting list, which is open and subject to HUD rules, the housing authority said.

According to the statement, “CHA provides safe and stable housing to 63,000 families across the city.” “We also partner closely with other city and nonprofit agencies to provide housing opportunities to address homelessness, including the recent issuance of approximately 1,200 emergency housing vouchers.”

Tamplin said the four homes where about 12 people were locked down last week were “empty for many years.”

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As of Friday, she wasn’t sure if any of the other three homes had been re-occupied since July 26, two of which had previously been occupied by “more vulnerable people experiencing homelessness,” which Humboldt said. The Park Housing project is “trying to protect” she said.

“The biggest thing is to replace these empty houses,” Tamplin said. “They need to be made available to those who need them. this is absurd. People need housing, and if they want to talk about the need for affordable housing, they should at least work and get paid every year to take care of these places and provide them quickly. He should spend

Mather-Glass, 25, is a special education classroom assistant, musician, activist and restaurant worker, and said the community has been supportive of the group’s efforts.

Mather-Glass said there were no signs of trouble on the group’s part, and in the end, most people are primarily concerned about keeping their neighborhoods safe.

“We hear about it every day, but where is this violence coming from,” Mather-Glass said. “What are the things that are pushing people on the streets and pushing people into desperation? Not having a home, removing that foundation from under you, that is class one. Once that happens, you’re sliding down.”

sahmad@chicagotribune.com

rsobol@chicagotribune.com

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