In less than 30 days Lauretta George will be forced to move from her small apartment in Austin.
George, 57, who lives at Menard and Washington, has been looking for a new place to stay for the last seven months. She has a disability, and has a monthly income of $649 but her rent is $700 a month.
“Ms. George … will be forced into a nursing home. Not because of her illness, but because of the lack of affordability for the disabled,” said Theresa Welch of the South Austin Coalition Community Council, which hosted a press conference at her apartment last Friday.
“She has been priced out of this unit,” said Welch. “She is three months behind in her rent and everywhere she has gone to try and find housing, she has been turned away, because she falls between that gap of not being a senior citizen, but she is disabled. However, she cannot go into senior housing because she is 57 years old.”
Welch said that George is able to take care of herself somewhat, adding that Chicago has a lack of mainstream housing for people with disabilities, like George.
“She is not looking for anyone to take care of her, but for the right to live and live comfortably here in Chicago,” Welch said. “We’re asking that someone reach out to her.”
SACCC has called the Mayor’s Office of Disability, but Welch says all that was provided was a list that did not have available housing units for the disabled.
“She has called private industry, she has called CHAC (Chicago Housing Choice Voucher Program), and no one has been able to assist her. So what does she do in this situation?” Welch asked. “Should she be forced to live on the streets? She’s begging for assistance but there is no assistance for her.”
SACCC wants a portion of federal stimulus money coming to the city to be used for people such as George, who do not qualify for low-income housing.
“Some of that money needs to be set aside for affordable housing,” said Welch. “Her situation is one of disability. She does not qualify for senior housing. So we have a big gap of people left that cannot be housed.”
Welch said that SACCC talked with staff at 29th Ward Ald. Isaac Carothers’ office about George’s situation. Welch said they provided a list of places to call, but, again, there is no housing available. She added that they’re also looking into contacting churches in the community to help, but she noted they’re also struggling because of the bad economy.
George spoke briefly at the press conference about her situation.
“I’m here today to express the things that are going on with disabled people. I get a check for $649 a month and I just start getting $600 this year. I had enough money to last until October 2008 for rent and my lights-I was hoping would not be turned off because I’m on oxygen.
“My gas I kept off until it got cold,” George added. “I was able to pay the gas until January, and then CEDA (Community and Economic Development Association) gave me $459. I’ve been trying to keep my insurance up, keep my phone on, and I need that because I’ve been in the hospital twice this year”
George explained that some of her relatives have tried to help but they also are struggling. She was borrowing money trying to maintain her apartment, utilities, food and everyday living expenses.
“It is terrible out here,” George said. “We don’t have anywhere to go and I don’t feel we should be forced into a nursing home. Just like they make things accessible for seniors, the disabled also needs help. Sickness and disabilities don’t have an age, so why is our age against us?”
George doesn’t know what will happen to her, but she had a message for Mayor Daley, the media, politicians or any organizations that will listen.
“I’m asking for some help; I really need some,” she said. “I don’t know what to do. I’ve gone everywhere. They sent me to a facility on Ogden and Roosevelt and the man tried to put me in one room. Why would I want to be stuck in one room, and I can’t be in one room because I can’t sleep where I eat at-the oxygen can’t be by a stove. I don’t know what I am going to do.”
Welch added, “We don’t want to play down anyone else’s problems, such as AIDS patients, senior housing, single parents-we know they also have serious situations. But certainly, if money can be set aside for senior housing, single parents-why not look at the whole picture? Don’t take a slice of the pie…slice it up equally.”
For more information, contact South Austin Coalition Community Council, 5660 W. Madison: 773-287-4570.