Homeless Living in Vacant Public Housing Units
The Plan for Transformation, initiated in 1999, calls for demolition of distressed public housing high-rises and construction of lower-density mixed-income communities. The plan, being implemented by the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA), will substantially reduce the number of family public housing units, and relocate thousands of households with Housing Choice Vouchers.1 As Chicago's public housing is demolished to make way for new mixed-income communities, an unknown number of homeless squatters living illegally in vacant public housing units will also lose their housing. As illegal squatters, these residents have neither legal right to relocation services nor the right to return to revitalized developments.
The squatters are not official CHA residents, making it unclear which city agency is responsible for responding to this urgent problem. The city is implementing an ambitious plan to assist to end homelessness. The plan, Getting Housed, Staying Housed: A Collaborative Plan to End Homelessness, represents a fundamental shift in the homeless service delivery system, from the current one that focuses on an emergency shelter system and transitional housing to a system that encourages a "housing first" philosophy.2 The Chicago Continuum of Care, a consortium made up of homeless providers and staff from the city, is responsible for implementing the plan to end homelessness. Although this plan ostensibly addresses the issue of homelessness in the city, there is no specific plan regarding the hundreds of homeless living in public housing. Further, to date the CHA has created no formal policies to ensure that the squatters living in public housing are offered social services and safe, stable housing before public housing buildings are demolished. (Authors)
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