The Blame Game and ‘Section 8’

gary-kopycinski.jpgCommentary

Park Forest’s Crime Free Housing Ordinance helped make quite an impact on one area of the village last week. While some were evicted from their residences in the Lofts of Thorn Creek because of failure to pay rent, there’s no question that a fair number of the 34 evictions were facilitated by the new ordinance. One of our "H" courts had been the stage for the worst possible affront known to our species.

The recent homicide in court H-6 remains unsolved, but not forgotten.

As I perused the Internet late last week following coverage of the evictions, I came across some rather disappointing comments that took shots at Park Forest while making one assumption in particular that was completely wrong. I found a local forum that was populated with individuals who claimed to have lived in Park Forest at one time and moved. Possessing virtually no current knowledge of our village today, the site was populated with some of the ugliest commentary I’ve ever seen online.

The premise of most of these comments? Most writers claimed the evictions are evidence of the growing problem of "Section 8" housing in Park Forest.

Most of the comments were completely anonymous. Writers signed using only pen names, hiding behind the veil of anonymity the Internet affords. Inside this nameless void, some found the confidence to sit in judgment as if they have some special relationship with the Divine the rest of us lack.

The problem? Many claimed it was clearly "Section 8." These evictions, some said, are evidence that too many people are living off taxpayer support. The poor are the problem, they reason. These people who were evicted demonstrate that "Section 8" doesn’t work.

So why bother with these anonymous grumblers? Who cares what someone who claims to have moved from Park Forest and lives far, far away has to say? I suppose I’m responding because they’re just plain wrong. They made one fatally absurd and ironic assumption.

It turns out that none of those evicted from the Lofts of Thorn Creek were on vouchers, what they are erroneously referring to as "Section 8."

None of them.

How can we be so certain of this? The Lofts of Thorn Creek do not accept vouchers. If they did, Park Forest, which has its own Housing Authority, long ago would have been able to pull the vouchers of some of those who invited or tolerated criminal activity in their residences. If poor judgment was a chronic issue and the landlord continuously permitted residents who engaged in criminal activity, Park Forest has the authority to remove the landlord from the voucher program completely.

This was not a "Section 8" issue at all.

It’s easy for us to make assumptions. I’ve been as guilty as the next guy of doing that sometimes. I do not claim to have all the answers, or even most of them. The truth is, there are a lot of reasons why some people enter the voucher program. This can even happen to those of us who sit behind pricey computer monitors and anonymously pick at the specks in the eyes of our brothers and sisters.

In Park Forest, however, we at least have some leverage with those who are on vouchers.

The new ordinance provides us leverage with others who might try to bring a neighborhood down.  It’s important to note that the Crime Free Housing Ordinance (CFHO) is only part of the Village’s plan in dealing with problem properties.  Our Troubled Building and Property Task Force was the impetus behind the CFHO as we try to assess various avenues at our disposal to help upgrade and/or maintain a suburban quality of life in Park Forest .

Related: Lofts of Thorn Creek Evicts 34 with Large Police Presence

The author is a Village Trustee in Park Forest.