Friday, October 29, 2010

Cabrini-Green Gone? Are you sure?

On Thursday I received a call from an CBS News research in New York, who was looking for people to talk to following a story in the Chicago Sun Times titled: Cabrini Green Last Stand

I agreed to reach out to alumni of Cabrini Connections for some people that he might talk to, but also challenged the reporter to dig deeper. I dug up the article myself and found that it had a really informative map. I encourage you to take a look at these.

The first map shows the entire Cabrini-Green area. You can see an icon showing the location of the final high rise that was the focus of the SunTimes article. If you click into the shaded sections you will get a pop up window, providing an estimate of the number of new units being built, and the number being set aside for public housing.

This is the section of two story buildings known as the "row houses". According to this article, "Only the 54 buildings of the row houses -- 586 units built in 1942 in the area between Chicago, Hudson, Larrabee and Oak -- are to remain at Cabrini. Eerily empty, a third are boarded up for rehab promised but now uncertain, as CHA reconsiders keeping this section 100 percent public housing."

Do the math. If 2/3 (390) of the row house unites are occupied and there are an average of 3 kids per family, that means about 1200 kids are living in that area. If 40% are 7th -12th grade, that means there are 480 who might benefit from a program like Cabrini Connections. We only have capacity for 80.

This is the Cabrini-North area. It "will host 700 units for former tenants out of 3,641 planned in at least 15 different developments."

This is the area called Cabrini Extension South, where "600 new units, one-third market-rate, affordable, and public housing" will be built.

This is the area North of Division Street called the William Green Homes. "This area will host 900 new units, one-third market-rate, affordable, and public housing, respectively. However, the first 100 units for former CHA tenants won’t be ready until 2013."

The Sun Times article said, "According to CHA's FY 2010 annual report to HUD, when Cabrini's transformation is complete, it will boast 5,141 privately developed, mixed-income units -- 1,200 as public housing, 932 for working-class families, and 3,009 for sale or rental at market rates."

Do the math. If there are an average of 3 kids per family, there will be 3600 low-income kids living in the public housing units in the "new" Cabrini Green. If the public thinks those kids are going to magically turn into high achievers, and their parents are going to be able to find well-paying jobs to support the education of their kids, they are not going to see any reason for tutor/mentor programs like Cabrini Connections to be in the area, and we won't be able to find the funds to continue to operate.

But the people building these projects are not educators, or social workers. Are the people who purchase the market rate properties, or the "working class family" properties, going to launch programs to connect the kids in the public housing units with mentors and learning resources that are available to their own kids?

Cabrini Connections has a history dating back to 1965 and operates a mentor-rich program (although poorly funded). When people in Cabrini Green realize there needs to be programs like this will they start from scratch and try to relearn all that we've learned over 45 years?

Take a look at the Cabrini Connections web site and meet our teens. We have nearly 80 7th to 12th grade student enrolled in the 2010-11 program. Most come from the Cabrini Green area. It will be six years before the 7th graders are high school graduates.

Here's a message posted on Facebook by one of our former students:

I graduated from the program back in 1992 and I'm troubled to hear that it is in financial peril and there is the real possibility that it can close. This program was a key factor in my finally seeing what possibilities lay out there for me to be successful.... They are currently doing that for so many of the Children of Cabrini and I'm not aware of many programs that do it in a grass root, no nonsense kind of a way.

I am throwing out a challenge. I will match donations to the program up to a total of $600. I wish I could do more. But unfortunately, I can't. However together, we can turn each others dollars into a significant amount. Facebook me if you want to join this challenge with me. If all goes well, we should be able to give the program at least $1200 dollars that they do not have right now and desperately need.

We hope many people will respond to this challenge so we can try to help them reach this goal and be prepared for the next step to college and a career.

With a good job, and a good education, they can choose where they want to live.

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