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Brand New Beginnings Non Profit Fails Tenants In South Side Apartment Building

All I can say is WOW!! People put their trust in organizations and to be let down is a travesty.  Brand New Beginnings should be made to pay for the tenants moving expenses and the tenants should not have to go back to a shelter.   How is it that an organization that won the 2014 CNDA (Chicago Neighborhood Development Award) can get away with being so irresponsible? The tenants in the building are not at fault and should not have to bear the responsibility of being homeless….yet again!! 

Apartments’ demise hurts vulnerable tenants

Sebrina Cummings has made strides since moving into supportive housing seven years ago.

Two of her eight children are in college. Another child is about to graduate from high school. Cummings, 47, works as a home care provider for the disabled and elderly. In many ways, she is the typical working-poor. When she moved into the Harriet Tubman Apartments at 5759 S. Michigan in 2007, Cummings was homeless and jumped at the opportunity to leave a shelter.

Now, Cummings is again facing homelessness through no real fault of her own.

Because the private non-profit organization, Brand New Beginnings, failed to fulfill the requirements of a grant to operate the city’s subsidized housing program known as Shelter Care Plus, fragile families are being dumped on the street.

Della Mitchell (no relation), the founder of Brand New Beginnings, declined to comment about the troubled program.

Unlike the intense scrutiny given Gov. Pat Quinn’s scarred Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, few questions are being raised about how a taxpayer funded housing program that opened with such fanfare seven years ago, has ended up in such a mess.

Last April, 40 families residing in two adjacent buildings were notified that the not-for-profit had lost its grant and the residents would have to move elsewhere.

But that same month, the city required Cummings to sign a “Shelter Plus Care Program and Supportive Housing Program Termination of Assistance and Appeal Policy and Procedure” agreement apparently unaware Brand New Beginnings had lost its subsidy.

The lack of funding meant garbage piled up. Water and electric bills went unpaid. A backed-up sewer in the basement was allowed to stay that way until the women complained to the news media and Ald. Willie Cochran (20th) stepped in.

Although most of the families were eligible for CHA’s Section 8 Voucher program, four families either do not qualify for the program or could not be moved up on the notoriously long waiting list.

“This is devastating to me. I have two kids in college and an autistic son,” said Cummings, who would likely have to move into a shelter if the city’s Family and Support Services Department or CHA does not intervene.

“My clients cannot afford market rate units, so they are essentially going to be made homeless again due to the owner’s mismanagement,” said Lea Weems, an attorney with the Legal Assistance Foundation who is trying to assist the displaced families.

A spokesman for the city’s Department of Family and Support Services said that agency “is working closely with tenants” to find housing.

“Some tenants meet clear cut criteria for existing programs and are easier to place. For those who don’t, shelter is a viable temporary option until we can locate other housing options,” said Matt Smith in an email.

Still, there are unanswered questions about how the program got into this state in the first place, and what responsibility, if any, the city bears for monitoring how the program was administered.

According to a spokesman for the Illinois Housing Development Authority, the property is “delinquent” on its IHDA loan.

“IHDA is currently in the process of advancing funds to pay delinquent fees for utilities and waste management services for the property,” Cami Freeman said.

“Even those with a Section 8 Voucher are at risk of being homeless.

Iishia Murphy, who suffers from a heart condition, is the single mother of three.

“It’s hard. We’ve got to September 24 to find an apartment and it sometimes takes a month before someone can get out there and do an inspection,” she said.

Why was there apparently so little oversight of program that was supposed to help vulnerable families over the long haul?

It isn’t fair for the city to send these women back to shelters and move on.

Source: Chicago SunTimes


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