CHA policy could oust entire family for crime of one

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A rarely used policy by the Chicago Housing Authority has spoiled the holiday season this year for a 15-year public housing resident.

A rarely used policy by the Chicago Housing Authority has spoiled the holiday season this year for a 15-year public housing resident.

Patricia Jordan, 52, is in court fighting an eviction order after her 21-year-old son plead guilty to a felony gun charge after being arrested away from CHA property in September for possession of an illegal gun. The arrest puts Jordan in violation of the agency’s Criminal Activity Eviction policy, which allows CHA to evict an entire household if a household member is arrested for certain crimes.

“My son was carrying a gun for protection because he has been threatened by gangs and drug dealers before. He has no criminal record, works a job and is going school,” she said.

According to Lewis Jordan, chief executive officer for CHA, the CAE policy, which the agency has used for the last 17 years, is part of a federal mandate public housing authorities must follow.

And even though CHA officials said it is possible an entire household could be evicted for the actions of one, rarely does that happen.

“Everyone that gets arrested does not automatically get evicted,” said Lewis Jordan, who once lived in the Rockwell Gardens public housing complex on the West Side. “Based on what a person is charged with and the supporting evidence involved, we would determine whether to evict the whole household or just that individual.”

The housing chief insists that the policy is not meant to separate families but protect them.

“We have a responsibility to provide a safe environment to all our tenants,” he added.

A review of the CHA’s monthly CAE reports from January 2005 to July 2010 the Defender obtained through a Freedom of Information Request, supports Lewis Jordan’s assertion that not every leaseholder found in violation is kicked out.

Since 2005 a total of 628 households faced eviction under the policy. Not all of those facing ejection from public housing were kicked out, though. In some cases, special agreements were reached in court between attorneys representing CHA’s property managers and tenants.

“CHA procedure provides guidelines to determine whether an entire family should be evicted or whether settlement of the CAE case is appropriate,” said Matt Aguilar, a spokesman for CHA, told the Defender. “This agreement allows those family members who are not engaged in criminal activity to remain in the unit under a probationary status. It requires the leaseholder to remove only the family member who engaged in the alleged criminal activity.”

Each time a tenant is arrested for a crime, police notify the housing authority and CHA conducts an investigation, which includes interviewing the leaseholder (which may not be the person who was arrested) before making a determination as to what action to take, added Scott Ammarell, general counsel for CHA.

Patricia Jordan, who pays $240 a month for a two-bedroom apartment she currently shares with her son at Lake Parc Place, 3983 S. Lake Park Ave., is saving her money in case she is forced out. Her older son has already been barred from being on CHA property because he was deemed “a trouble maker,” she explained.

She is due back in Cook County circuit court Jan. 12 and is being represented by the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, a non-profit organization that represents low-income tenants.

“I don’t know what is going to happen with me so Christmas will have to wait,” she said. “If it comes to it then I will put my son out but I am hoping we can both stay. That is what I am fighting for.”

Copyright 2010 Chicago Defender

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