CHICAGO, IL — Cold snap doesn’t even come close to describing the weather this holiday season as 90% of the nation suffered weeks of freezing weather. Chicago was no exception. Sub-zero temperatures (with the wind chill factor) stretched on for weeks right on into the New Year. A man froze to death on New Year’s Eve while waiting for a train in downtown Chicago. Meanwhile, families all over Chicago struggled to keep warm in unheated or under-heated homes, using ovens, space heaters – anything, no matter how unsafe, to keep from freezing to death. Thousands of homeless people became especially desperate searching for shelter.
At the Caroline Hedger Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) senior building in Rogers Park, residents lost heat for the second year in a row. Although CHA claimed there was nothing wrong with the heat, video clips showed space heaters being wheeled into the building. Then water pipes burst in the building causing massive flooding. Many seniors reported that they were not even given one of these space heaters and didn’t know anyone who had received one.
Even though senior residents were interviewed in freezing cold apartments wearing winter clothes, CHA continued to deny that heat was a problem. “I’ve been sleeping in three sweaters, two pajama pants because it’s cold and I’ve been very sick and it seems to be getting worse,” said Stephanie Hayes, 72, a resident in the building.
The fact that anyone should be struggling to keep warm, that lives should be threatened and even lost due to poor housing or no housing is a needless shame! Twenty percent of the housing owned and operated by the CHA is unoccupied, while the waiting list has been closed at 280,000 families.
From the Huffington Post: “Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s housing agency has been pulling hundreds of millions of dollars from a fund earmarked for its affordable housing program and using the money instead to boost its pension, purchase government debt and build up a staggering cash reserve.”
One CHA senior told the People’s Tribune, in reference to a new policy by the mayor, that hurricane victims be given first priority over those on the waiting list. “CHA loves to deny, and divide and bully, it is what they do best!”
We can’t let this stand. Having a home that is adequately heated is a human right that we must insist upon and must not be divided on. After all, there really is enough space, enough empty buildings, houses and apartments for all. There is enough to go around and to help all who need it, but it all depends on who controls the resources and the property. Will it be we the people or the corporate billionaires? It’s a life-and-death choice we must make in our favor.