On Friday, December 6, Latrice Hudson gave up her right to public housing assistance, less than two months after her second-oldest son, Reginald, gave up his life to the violence that is rampant in some Chicago neighborhoods.
In the span between the two events, Hudson struggled to be given a chance to stay in her rowhouse in Westhaven Park, the new-model public housing that replaced the Henry Horner Homes immediately north of the United Center. Hudson has lived in the development since 1999, raising five children.
She was about $50 short on her $450 monthly rent in both August and September—back-to-school-costs had eaten up her income, she says. On October 16, six days after Reginald Hudson died, the private firm that manages the housing notified her of eviction proceedings.
“It’s zero tolerance,” says Samira Nazem, an attorney with the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing who eventually handled Hudson’s case. “The [management company] is not giving second chances, even to a mother who is grieving.”
Or as Hudson put it to me Monday, the day she chose a headstone for her son’s grave: “I had told them in good faith [in August] that I was trying to make it up. Then my son was killed. I think sometimes you can look at a situation and make a better judgment.”
According to Nazem, following the eviction notice, Hudson showed up at a few hearings with the amount owed and even arrived once with a friend carrying a blank check because she had been told she’d have to cover the opposing side’s attorney fees. In each case, the money was not accepted. Nazem says that at the last hearing, Friday, she saw a note on the opposing counsel’s file that blared: “No Deals!”
“They wanted this family out,” Nazem says. She and Hudson both say that the only criminal complaint against the family was five years ago, when police caught Reginald Hudson with a single joint of marijuana. At that point, his mother made him leave the home and took his name off the lease, she says, because “I couldn’t risk the housing for the rest of the family.”
Nazem says that Hudson’s choice on Friday to give up her claim on housing aid was “the less risky choice.” Hudson now has a certain date for moving out, March 20. Had she pursued the issue and lost—which Nazem says appeared to be very likely—she would get only a week to find new, market-rate housing for herself and the three children who still live with her.
(Hudson won’t be paying rent for the rest of her stay in the rowhouse, which gives her an opportunity to save toward leasing costs.)
Although Nazem says the Chicago Housing Authority was a plaintiff in the case against Hudson, the agency’s spokesperson declined to discuss the eviction because the agency doesn’t own or manage the housing. CHA’s Wendy Parks referred me to the owner of the property, Brinshore-Michaels. In turn, a Brinshore executive, Peter Levavi, referred me to Louise Dooley at Interstate Realty Management, which manages the property where Hudson lives. Dooley has not responded to a request for comment.
The Hudsons are “the kind of family that you would think we want to have in public housing,” Nazem says. Latrice Hudson works and her children have been enrolled in parochial schools like St. Malachy that focus on helping low-income kids get ahead. They also participate in the acclaimed Chicago Lights tutoring program at Fourth Presbyterian Church on North Michigan Avenue. Latrice Hudson admits to having “sheltered my sons too much, keeping them in the house too much, but it feels like there’s nowhere a young black man can go in Chicago and be safe.”
Reginald Hudson had worked briefly in Bolingbrook but couldn’t afford the long commute and had to quit, his mother says.
Early on the day that Reginald was killed, Latrice Hudson started a new job at a retailer in the posh North Avenue shopping district. Reginald called to congratulate her on the new job, she recalls, and she responded, “When will I be congratulating you on your new job?”
“Soon, Mom,” she recalls her second-born saying. “Soon.”