CHA Has Nations Poorest, Study Says

CHA Has Nation’s Poorest, Study Says

By Maudlyne lhejirika – Chicago Sun-Times

1995-01-26 CHA Has Nation’s Poorest Study Says – Chicago Sun-Times

Staff Writer

   The nation’s poorest people can be found here in Chicago, specifically in 11 Chicago Housing Authority developments with predominantly black populations, a new study finds.

                The study, to be released today, found that nine of the nation’s 10 poorest neighborhoods are CHA developments. When looking at the nation’s 15 poorest neighborhood, that number rises to include 11 CHA developments. Roosevelt University urbanologist Pierre deVise’s findings shocked many, especially those who learned they were the poorest poor nationwide.

                Anger was an overriding feeling for some of those who learned they were among the poorest, and there was skepticism over the methodology of the study deVise based on per-capita income taken from the 1990 census.

                Critics say deVise’s list exaggerates the findings because many of the poorest of the poor nationwide are separated by only a few dollars.

                “It can’t be true. It’s just not true.” said Francine Washington, a tenant representative at Stateway Gardens, characterized as the poorest neighborhood nationwide, with a 1989 per capita income of $1,650. That was down from a per capita of $2,866 a decade earlier.

                “How do you think I feel when someone says that?” Washington said. “That study doesn’t take into account people like me living here who work every day, or so many other residents who get up every morning and go to school or to job training programs. Poor is a state of mind. How dare you label us that way?”

                “You simply can’t tell me there’s no poorer neighborhoods in Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, D.C.,” said Wilma Sims, a lifelong resident of Robert Taylor Homes.

                Residents of Taylor, the nation’s largest public housing development found their development made the top 10 list three times, as it spans several tracts.

                Among the 10 poorest, the only one not in Chicago was Watts, a predominantly black neighborhood in Los Angeles. The poorest 15 include three others outside the city: a predominantly Latino neighborhood in San Antonio, a predominantly black neighborhood in Dallas and an Indian reservation in South Dakota.

                Others in Chicago found no element of surprise in deVise’s findings, pointing to the fact that 90 percent of CHA families live on public assistance, with the same percentage of families headed by single women.

                “It substantiates what I’ve been saying,” said CHA Chairman Vincent Lane. “It’s a sorry testament to what public policy has inflicted upon poor people in this country, and particularly poor blacks.

                “It’s disheartening. But you can bet I’ll be taking this data to [new House speaker] Newt [Gingrich] and the boys when I tell them let’s get on with mixed-income housing.”

                DeVise, whose annual studies on race issues here have often been at the center of controversy, said it is precisely the concentration of poverty unique to public housing here that explains Chicago’s poorest of the poor ranking.

                “What we have here in the 15 poorest neighborhoods is a super-concentration of families on welfare.” he said.

                “I myself was surprised to find that L.A. had only one neighborhood on the list and New York had none. It reflects a different policy by other cities and by their housing authorities to do a better job of dispersing- public housing and achieving economic mix.”

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