New Report Finds Chicago Housing Authority Failed To Give Mandated Services To Non-English Speaking Residents

Ariel Parrella-Aureli
September 06, 2019 - 8:43 pm

(Jane Addams Senior Caucus)


CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- A new report by the Jane Addams Senior Caucus and Loyola University Chicago’s Center for Urban Research and Learning (CURL) looked into the Chicago Housing Authorities’ Language Access Services for CHA residents and applicants and found grim results. 

It found that CHA does not meet requirements for language access and has failed its senior citizens, according to Senior Caucus organizers who held a press conference Sept. 5 on the findings.

"After analyzing data collected by Jane Addams Senior Caucus organizers and members, we see a clear pattern that CHA has failed to implement their own Language Access Plan. CHA has the plans and policies in place, but they are not doing the work. This leaves vulnerable seniors and families unable to access services that they are legally entitled to,” said Teresa Neumann, Senior Researcher at CURL. 

There are 70,004 seniors with limited English proficiency, according to CURL research. Seniors make up 35 percent of the limited proficiency population but only 12.5 percent of the Chicago population.

The report goes on to recommend that in order to implement their own language access plan, the CHA should create a functional language access, hire more bilingual staff, train all CHA staff on how to connect residents and applicants to these services, Neumann said.

The report also advises that the City oversee CHA’s implementation of language access services given their failure to do so. And that is what community organizers are hoping for with a new mayor and a more progressive city council. 

Alderman Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33rd Ward) joined the press conference to ask for change. She said own mother, who moved recently from Puerto Rico and is a monolingual spanish speaker, has struggled with the city-run program because of the language barrier.

“The process of applying for CHA housing with my mom was really hard. I had to be there the whole time to translate. Rodrigues-Sanches said. "And, not only applying for it, but also living in the building. My mom has gone without hot water because she cannot communicate with the staff." 

She said her 4-year-old son has translated for her mother in the office.

"That’s cute, but it should not be happening," she said. "He is not a translator and he does not have the skills to convey a clear message to the staff. This is the CHA's responsibility.”

CHA is not the only local program that has failed Chicago's senior citizens. After Chicago’s Public Health Department released a report about the elder population's health in late August, the findings were enlightening but shocking, said Dr. Nikhil Prachand, the Chicago Department of Public Health's Director of Epidemiology, who conducted the report. 

"One of the main areas where we felt like we discovered something is the fact that how many older adults are living in vulnurable situations," Prachand said. "We found that a third of older adults live alone (and) about a third are living with a physical disability."

The study, which accounted only for seniors who were surveyed voluntarily, also found that 16 percent — one in six people — live below the poverty line. In addition to racial disparities, the study revealed that a quarter of senior citizens do not have English proficiency, which supports CURL's findings.

However, there were positives to the data: 90 percent of the seniors had a routine medical checkup in the past year, and are satisfied with the health care they are getting.