Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Open Letter From A Scattered-Site Housing Resident

We received the following post from a CHA scattered-site housing resident who requests anonymity, for reasons that will be made clear as you read this letter:

As a CHA resident, I'm writing this email so I can give the residents of Uptown a view inside of what I and others go through on daily basis. I can't give out my name for fear of the safety of my family and other residents where we reside.

The problems that we're having are the gangs and drug dealing in and around the place where we reside. I've attended several CAPS meetings and I'm afraid to speak up because I don't know who may go back and say anything to the gangs. One of the main problems is a family who resides in the building has allowed the gangs and drug dealing to go on in their apartment, and management hasn't done anything to remove them. The address where we reside is 4440 and 4500 north Magnolia.

As I'm writing this email, the gangs decided to have a barbecue inside of our yard and none of these guys live here. I'm afraid to say anything to them for fear of my safety and that of my children. The property has been used to stash drugs, hide gangbangers and other dangerous things. The tenants live in fear because management has turned a blind eye to our complaints and done nothing to ensure our safety.

At 7:13 am, Sunday, June 22, my family and I woke to the sounds of a loud boom only to discover that someone had let some fireworks go off inside of the front entrance of our building. I know other residents are having that problem, but just imagine it going off inside of the place where you and your family live.

Please let the residents of Uptown and posters on uptownupdate know that there are some CHA residents that are a part of the solution for the safety of Uptown and NOT the problem of Uptown.

Okay, readers, what can we do to convince the management of these buildings to address and solve this situation?


  1. Sounds awful but utterly believable. Take a look down that street on any given day and its like a line-up for ganbanger central casting.. Perhaps Alderfail could move in for a while like Jane Byrne did at Cabrini-Green? To show how deeply she "cares about the poor" Or maybe she thinks the author of that account "has'nt suffered enough" ? Go get 'em Helen!

  2. I live exactly one block west of this young lady. I see it first hand. I see how the Mothers now have to take their kids up a block to Malden and Sunnyside just to be safe. This problem is real.

    Here is what we do. When we see kids playing looking for something to do, We give them sidewalk chalk, we go throw the football with the guys, we talk to them about school. When I speak with the kids they are just as sick of the gangs and just as scared as their parents. Some can't even look me in the eye because they are so scared of grown male figures.

    As far as what to do? We need to make public the slum lords of Uptown. Hell the tax payers are paying for portions of the building, we have a right to hold the other half accountable. We have to let the residents know we are all on the same team.

    Also, on the tax dollar note, we have to find out what our local schools are doing to combat and prevent this action. What anti gang programs are they running? Do they need more? How can we help them with it?

    Just a thought.

  3. Please scroll down...

    Understand that Helen does not care about the poor, she cares about power. She manipulates the poor to further her own self interests and to line her own pockets.

  4. I like what you are saying uptown dad. I really feel for the poster. I wonder if she has ever filled out that Drug and Gang House Reporting Form. I haven't looked at it, but if there is the option for anonymity, I would encourage her to do it. In fact, I may do the same. I live across the street from the housing complex that the poster lives in and saw the BBQ happening on Sunday. It was a scary-looking bunch of guys hanging out being loud and obnoxious. The cops drove by several times, but it seems they couldn't do anything about it. What up?!

  5. OK---because it is obvious our friend Helen will not do anything about this---we'll (residents) have to take care of this-like many other issues we handle. Is there a property manager for this prop, or is it just CHA? I'll make the call. This is ridiculous---living on taxpayer dollars and then hostings gangs/drugs.

  6. I think these are Section Eight units. A representative for the management company has been to some of the more recent 2311 CAPS meetings to inform us of work they're doing to improve. Sadly, it looks like it's not enough.

    Is there some way we can help empower the good tenants in that building to take control back?

    For instance, did the reader who sent in this letter call 911 to report the non-tenant gangbangers barbequeing in their yard?

  7. My guess is that most if not all of those involved in the courtyard barbecue do not have their names on the unit leases of those buildings. They are the boyfriends or family members of people living there. They are also likely barely literate criminal types who are far more interested in alpha-dogging each other and building residents because that is about all the "status" they can achieve for themselves.

    Their behavior is annoying, pathetic, dangerous, and a front for their true insecurities. No one stays young and careless forever, and in the long run, they will suffer the fate of their present ignorant and obnoxious actions. The testosteroned doo-rag, white T-shirt-wearing gangsta of today is the sick, homeless, and unemployable street person (or Wilson Hotel resident) a decade from now.

  8. Check out a similar, disturbing incident in LA's Watts neighborhood:

    The atmosphere grew even more tense Sunday when pool officials announced, again, that the water had become too cloudy and the pool needed to be closed. A group of men in their 20s and 30s were told first in an effort to enlist their help, but they refused to go. "We asked them to leave and things went out of control," Molina said. "They weren't listening." Molina watched as his staff was quickly overpowered. The lifeguard on the tower was thrown into the water, followed by a locker room attendant. Molina said he was grabbed as he tried to make it to his office to dial 911. He was punched and thrown in the water, he said, and the armed security guards were unable to stop the crowd.


  9. Uptown dad had a number of good comments. (Gosh, you may be my favorite libertarian...:)

    Holding the slumlords to task is key. Hugh, are you out there? Where do you find all of your great information? Getting better communication and trust between families living in subsidized housing and families in market rate housing is key.

    Are there any functioning tenants organizations in these buildings? If not, the surrounding community could help bolster the tenant leaders as well as find other ways to improve relations between the police and the tenants and the surrounding community. Open forum CAPS meetings may just feel too dangerous for some folks. I am not suggesting to abandon CAPS but there are other/additional ways keep moving toward positive change.

    The bottom line is that we need to get some of the subsidized buildings better integrated into the surrounding block clubs.

    BTW: Is this particular building a highrise?

  10. As saskia suggested, the landlords can be held to the fire for creating a dangerous situation. Non-residents using building facilities, too many people residing in one apartment, the presence of drugs and weapons are all things that are supposed to get a tenant evicted, right? And if the landlord isn't doing it, then the city has to step in an protect the residents who are good tenants, right? What is the process for hauling a landlord into court. As I've always maintained, drug dealers and gangbangers need a base of operation or they can't survive in a neighborhood. These guys have found one. Kick out the source and the rest will have no recourse. if there a way this woman or someone else who lives there can document the situation, make notes of the incidents and present them to the city? I did this myself for a building I use do live in, presented the things i saw to the building manger and (surprisingly) he did something about it. The tenant who was the source of the problems (who lived next door to me) moved out shortly and his buddies were seen no more.

    I would say present them to the alderman, but from what I'm reading that's pointless.

  11. Well, the housing forms on this site are the obvious official way to start but it seems to me that the underlying problem is people feeling that there will be some retribution. What we as a community need to do is to band together with people who have information about what is going on. As it stands now, the area-wide tenants organizations of old are all in Shiller's pocket. Grievances from the people must pass through them so that they can be the voice of the people. If they don't want to do anything or if they want to silence something, they can. And, the distrust for law enforcement coming from those quarters is not helping either. In a nutshell, you have an Alderman and most of the institutions in the neighborhood who are very interested in isolating residents from one another. The end result is that if you live in one of these buildings and you can't get any traction from the alderman or the local institutions...you can't get very far with your grievances.

    I have been thinking about it but I just don't know how to effectively circumvent that logjam.

  12. The one problem with the CAPS meetings is that the cops keep repeating themselves to call 911 when the tenants of those buildings keep saying back to the cops- "We did call, but no one came." Then of course the argument just goes in circles.

    Maybe hand-held video cameras can be given to the people who live in these buildings, so they can keep tabs on the people who don't live there who keep coming back.

    Nobody should be living with this sort of fear.

  13. I need to start going to CAPS meetings. If their are people attending that are afraid to speak out we can assist them.

    We can deploy technology that can help these residents. Photographs work.

    We can communicate with people that don't want to speak out in a CAPS meeting through other means. Talking is only a third of human communication.

  14. http://weupdateuptown.googlepages.com/filestodownload

    Step one is to file this (thanks for the link UU!) and to get as many neighbors as possible to do the same.

  15. I'm assuming there are some or just a few building residents with absolutely no gang affiliations. But for the majority, it's likely a gray area--such as one family sibling with questionable friends, or an otherwise nice lady who depends on her gangbanger bf or relative for extra money.

    Sadly, that gray area makes it nearly impossible for anti-crime neighborhood activists to seriously curtail the presence and behavior of the infiltrating gang members.

  16. Thanks Saskia.:0)

    To answer your question..this is not a high rise building. It is a two flat/three (kind of points if that makes sense.)

    I just used google maps to check it out and on the street view there is a cop car sitting right next to it on Sunnyside. Same place I saw one yesterday with 4 gang bangers sitting right in front of it daring the cop to bust them.

    This place is where one of the "main" gangs of Uptown hang out. They can't "live" there because there is not enough units and from what the cops tell me the gang numbers about 25, most have South Side addresses.. They are believed to be the ones responsible for the death of the young Truman student.

  17. I sent this info to CBS2 Pam Zekman to see if she could help us out...here is the response I received back:
    I just wanted to let you know that we’ve received your email about the gang problems you’re experiencing in Uptown. Thank you for providing the letter for us to read also. I’m not sure if this is something we can investigate at this time, but I’ll present what you’ve sent me
    to our investigators. If we need additional details, I’ll email you back at the address you’ve provided. Thank you for the news tip! Good luck to you and your neighbors.
    Lauren Rozyla
    CBS 2 Investigative Researcher
    (312) 202-3751

    Hey everyone contact her about this. Maybe if enough of us do, they will see this as a big problem and helps us expose the landlords of these buildings.

  18. But for the majority, it's likely a gray area--such as one family sibling with questionable friends, or an otherwise nice lady who depends on her gangbanger bf or relative for extra money.

    Sadly, that gray area makes it nearly impossible for anti-crime neighborhood activists to seriously curtail the presence and behavior of the infiltrating gang members.

    But billyjoe, I'm not sure how that's a grey area. if the tenant is knowingly providing a safe harbor for a gangbanger or drug dealer, regardless of the extenuating circumstances, it's gotta be some sort of violation that can lead to eviction. Heck, when i worked at CHA I'd hear stories from tenants who claimed they didn't know their cousin who just got out of jail was back with the gangs and they were evicted.

    Even someone who is dependent on a gang banger for financial support is still harboring a criminal. Why is this a "grey area" but someone, say, providing a place to live for their pedophile relative isn't? Both are a danger to kids.

    Just to be clear, I'm not arguing with you, just chatting.

  19. Not sure what good it will do, but I just forwarded the body of her email to our police district headquarters as well as leaving a message for Denise at Schiller's office to call me. We'll see if I get anywhere.

  20. Comments so far have suggested notifying the media, CAPS, filling out a "Drug and Gang House Reporting Form," contacting the police district commander or someone in Shiller's office.

    Certainly one of the posters or someone reading this thread knows who owns that building. Seems to me that it would be most effective to identify and contact that person, and get them to respond to the allegations of loud noises and courtyard barbecues.

    Identify the owner, or this thread is going to digress into what is commonly called a "circle jerk."

  21. To those that saw the police circle but not stop.. it is because they cannot arbitrarily enter private property unless a crime has been committed or one seems imminent.

    TO those neighbors around the building, the next time that happens, call 911 and make a noise complaint or something. That then gives the cops the legal right to go into the yard and start moving things along...

    and Dawn, please keep us in the loop as to the response you get from the folks to whom you forwarded this information. I think a lot of us will be very interested.

    And finally, I just walked down Wilson from Clarendon to Broadway and called 311 on EVERY SINGLE GANG GRAFFITTI I saw..from buildings to lamp posts to newspaper boxes. I would really like to suggest everyone start doing this immediately, no matter how small. The more we become a pain in the ass in a positive way, the quicker things can get under control...

    Sorry for the long post...

  22. I think the grey area that BJ was referencing is that gang "membership" and "affiliation" is a pretty amorphous thing in some communities. Being connected somehow to a street gang isn't in itself a bad thing (lots of times the connections come by just being related to someone or having grown up with someone.) Therefore, outsiders need to adjust their perceptions a bit in thinking that gang=criminals=crime. In fact, gangs have been known to help "give back" to their communities as well as cause crime and death. It's complicated.

    IMHO what really needs to be happening in Uptown is for there to be zero tolerance for violent crime and a more comprehensive approach to community policing that understands that people's "gang affiliations" aren't necessarily the problem. The problem is lack of respect for all members of the community and that this community (working TOGETHER) will help reinforce that this is not the place to go and get away with any sh**. What really pisses me off is that Helen Shiller could be a real asset in all of this. But where is she?

    Am I making any sense to y'all in my suggestion that we need to slightly reframe our perceptions and thus, our approach? It is subtle but makes a difference when you start talking about how to accomplish your goals.

  23. It's amazing how Uptown changes street to street... and Magnolia between Wilson and Montrose has far too much "activity" for its own good, with Sunnyside being the epicenter. I feel for the letter-writer.

    On Friday night, around from about 11:30 to midnight, there were a group of 15 or so teens (just kids, not gangbangers) just hanging out between Wilson and Sunnyside on Magnolia. The collective volume of their voices was just tremendous, not to mention the multiple basketballs being bounced. One questions whether one has the right to have one's windows open when one is trying to sleep. I called the police to try and quiet them down, but they never showed up and eventually the pack of kids headed down Wilson.

    I appreciate the efforts of Uptown Dad in #2, and I think there is a lot of possibilities working with kids one on one, but there are such systemic issues rooted in these problems. What parent is letting their 15-year-old roam the streets of uptown on a Friday night? How is their such a personal disregard for others around you? Why are their no normal "filters" as to what reasonable behavior is (this pertains more to the full volume, repetitive shouting matches that happen regularly on the street)? Who decides it is a good idea to light a firecracker at 7:30 AM, let alone inside a building?

    Obviously this pack of kids was a fairly benign thing on Friday compared to much of the other stuff that goes around... but besides calls to the police and hoping the bad seeds move away, are their any ways to try and tackle some of the more systemic things that make this behavior perpetuate year after year?

  24. More Gray* Areas:

    1. Intimidating-looking men barbecuing in a courtyard, even though they are not supposed to be doing so, can be easily offended and provoked by complaints and rules. As far as many of them are concerned, they are having a good time and not out somewhere causing trouble. Asking them to stop, to them, is nitpicking them for their every indulgence.

    2. Kids playing basketball at night view their activity in the same manner: "You stereotype us as gang member wannabes, but when we try to be constructive, you don't like that, either." And as they are not the ones trying to sleep, it's hard to convey to them how noise --like basketballs bouncing and players trash talking each other -- amplifies greatly the higher it ascends.

    *By the way, AP Style prefers the spelling "gray" versus "grey."

  25. LOL. I had no idea anyone scrutinized my posts so carefully. Are you flirting with me, BillyJoe? Or, are you just a stickler for AP Style? I guess I must prefer that spelling in honor of my dog or something.

  26. billyjoe...

    so guys having an (illegal, as far as their residency is concerned) cookout in a backyard minding their own businesses might get offended, and kids talking at the top of their lungs and bouncing a basketball at nearly midnight might be offended at being asked to stop too.

    so what's the answer? ignore both? complain more? cause grey (sorry, gray) area or not, somebody's more than likely going to have their feelings hurt.

  27. I actually rather agree with BJ's post about gray areas. Not so much that they are gray in the eyes of the "rules" or of socially "nice" but in appreciation of the perspective of the people involved. If rules are never enforced (BBQ) or someone has never considered sleeping on a friday night (bball) the lack of sympathy for others is really the root of the problem that they would have being told to stop. Framed as a sick mother trying to sleep don't you think that some empathy would be evoked in the bball players and less resentment?

  28. Just so we don't get away from the original point of this thread: the woman that wrote the original post is afraid and has listed conditions in her building that should be address. I don't think she's exaggerating. So a nice BBQ should soften or turn into a "gray" area a situation that has the potential to get out of control... if it isn't there already.

  29. Uptown Superhero is right. What you see and what you hear MUST be communicated to every city entity possible.

    My advice for getting the communication change working is to provide more information.

    Where is it? What is the address? On the south wall? The north wall? Below the address sign?

    Where? What address? How many? Physical descriptions? What time did you see it?

    If you post it, they will report it.

  30. Long Time Resident:

    I have written Helen many times about gangs and such and all I ever got was a shove off responce. I think its time we vote her out when the time comes......

  31. Isn't there a curfew for minors. I'm not sure if it's 10 or 11, but I know that there is a curfew. Then you can call 911 and get these kids off the streets. It's not safe for 15 years olds to be walking down wilson close to midnight anyway.

  32. I heard back from Denice. She let me know that she is aware of this family and spoke with the police commissioner regarding this situation. She also added an FYI to her email that the Housing Resource has fired the manager and assistant manager of those complexes. With any luck this family will get some relief. I was happy to hear that this resident, who was clearly afraid, may get to live in peace.

  33. Just saw a drug deal at Sunnyside and Malden, then the dealer walked back to Sunnyside and Magnolia and the buyer walked to the building 4544 N Malden.

    Called 311. Anyone know how long you have to wait on hold to talk with someone? I hung up because I was playing with my son.

    Lets start diming out drug buyers as well. Drug watch anyone?

    Oh, a lady with short blonde hair that walks a black and white dog and lives around the 4450 block of Beacon has drug dealers meet her in the alley daily. She runs down, recieves "something" and then runs back up.

  34. Uptown Dad, you called 311? Why not 911? A drug deal is worthy of 911 just so you know...

  35. Cops are out in force on Sunnyside tonight.

    I know I could of called 911, but all this 311 talk got me juiced so I thought I would give it a shot. I got elevator music.

    Next time.

  36. If you had waited to speak to someone at 311 they would simply have told you to call 911. If you don't believe me ask the CAPS facilitator or Sg. Haggerty at the next CAPS meeting on July 1st.

  37. I want to get involved with CAPS. where do I start?

  38. Cardsfan, on the landing page of this blog, on the righthand side, is all of the CAPS info. Where do you live and we can direct you to the correct CAPS meeting>?

  39. Anyone seen this before?

    Guy standing on the sidewalk with his right hand above his head twirling a reflective bracelet. He raised and lowered it a few times on about 1 minute intervals.

    He was signaling someone. He was standing in front of the Wilson Club hotel at 9PM facing west.

    I checked that direction but there was nobody receiving the signal. I didn't scan eastbound so he may have been signaling someone behind him.