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Lakeview Group Celebrates Work With Police, Housing and Health

Story by: Corneal Westbrooks

August 20, 2008 – The  theme of  the night was,  “people, power,  and promise”  when the Lakeview Action Coalition (LAC) met June 16 at Anshe Emet Synagogue for its 15th annual  convention.  The  focus was on homeless youth and police relations,  affordable housing,  and healthcare.

This was not an ordinary meeting,  but a festive event.  There was music and laughter at a celebration of 15 years worth  of  accomplishments.   Some of  these  milestones  include  prompting the Chicago Police Department to create a  permanent  nighttime  bike  patrol  as part of  a project  to  reduce hate crimes and  improve  community  policing;   the preservation  of  affordable  housing through Section 8;  the creation of affordable housing through set-asides;  and the championing  of  commitments  from Advocate  Illinois  Masonic  and  local politicians  to  address  local  healthcare needs.  

Since  the Chicago Police Department shakeup  in  which  21  of  25  district commanders were  replaced  last March,  the  LAC  has  met  twice  with  new Commanders John Kenny and Kathleen Boehmer of the 19th and 23rd districts.  Together, they have  started  a project  to identify officers who would be willing to work  directly  and  constructively  with youth.   LAC members have also met with Deputy Police Supt.  Peter Brust,  who also attended the meeting,  and who agreed to help  bring  their  concerns  directly  to Supt.  Jody Weis.  The LAC has developed a  task  force  that  continues  to work  to make the neighborhood a safe harbor for homeless,  runaway,  and at-risk youth.   

Independent Police Review Authority Chief  Ilana  Rosenzweig,   who  attended the meeting,  also promised to involve the LAC  in holding police  officers  accountable  for  their  actions.   Rosenzweig  also committed to an open door policy with the LAC.

Lakeview  East, commonly  known  as Boystown,  has  been  a  safe  haven  for homeless  and  LGBT  youth.  However, in December  2006,  an  18-month study by the  LAC  found 112  incidents of police  abuse of  the homeless  and  LGBT youth in the 19th and 23rd districts.  The LAC’s Web site still notes 10 to 20 reports monthly of racial profiling,  illegal searches,  verbal  abuse,  threats or  physical violence.  As  Lakeview  becomes  increasingly gentrified,  its eclectic character will deteriorate  without  affordable  housing,   the LAC notes in its prepared material.  

“Housing  is  not  a  privilege,   it’s  a human right,  and Lakeview  is no exception, ” says Barbara Campbell,  a Section 8 tenant and LAC Board member.

During  the meeting,   the  LAC  focused on  three  neighborhood  buildings  as affordable  housing:   the Diplomat Hotel, the  Britton/Bud  Apartments and  the Belmont Tower Apartments.  The  Diplomat  is a Single  Room Occupancy at 3208 N.  Sheffield Ave.  that LAC  is trying to preserve for  individuals who would otherwise be homeless.   The Britton/Bud Apartments at 501 W.   Surf  St. has 173 affordable units. 

The Britton-Bud building is no longer exclusively  owned  by  CHA,  but  by a  partnership  that  includes CHA.  Rehabilitation began July  17 and  172 units of public  senior  housing should  be  available by the fall of 2009,  according  to  CHA spokesman Matt Aguilar. 

The Belmont Towers,  510 W.  Belmont Ave., is a 288-unit,  Project-Based Section 8  complex  whose  mortgage  with  the U.S.  Department  of Housing  and Urban Development expires in 2010.

State Reps.  Sara Feigenholtz  and  John Fritchey,  both Chicago Democrats,  said at the meeting  they would  build  alliances among  their  colleagues  and  fight  for $100  million  a  year  for  five  years  for affordable  housing  in  the  state’s  capital budget.  It would be a first-time line item.

Ald.  Tom Tunney  (44th),   agreed  to  continue  to do everything  in his power  to ensure  that  the owner of  the Diplomat fixes the building or sells  it to someone who  will  preserve  and  improve  it  as affordable SRO  housing.  Ald.   Helen Shiller (46th) also attended the meeting. 

The community was well represented at  the  LAC  annual meeting by  religious congregations such  as  the  Broadway United  Church  of  Christ  and  the  Lake View  Presbyterian  Church;   non-profit organizations  such  as  the Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach,  the Center on Halsted,  Deborah’s Place, Youth Pride Center, Central  Lake  View Merchants  Association  and  the  North Side  Community  Federal  Community Union. 

Activities started with music from the Second  Unitarian  Ensemble  and  the Youth  Drum  Corp  and  a  prayer  from Rabbi  Daniel  Cotzin  Burg.  They  ended with a call to action for all those in attendance.

For other neighborhood stories like this one, pick up a copy of StreetWise.

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