February 27, 2017
Philly.com: A farm grows in Chester City, and so does supermarket partnership
Young men are spreading and shoveling piles of mulch on the raised beds on a pleasantly warm February afternoon. At the other end of the garden, a manager peers through the greenhouse at beds of collard greens. Juxtaposed against the cracked concrete sidewalks, with its benches and plywood posters, the Ruth L. Bennett Community Farm in the struggling city of Chester’s West End, the farm might seem as incongruous as the February warmth.
February 21, 2017
Chester City Blog: Chester Housing Authority Officers Awarded for Work with Trauma Victims
Two Chester Housing Authority police officers – William Cooper and Wesley Seitz – have been honored with awards from the Trauma Survivors Foundation in Wilmington. The honor stems from a high speed chase last year in Chester that ended at a CHA property. Chester City Police Captain Alan Davis was badly injured in the shootout that ensued. The CHA officers helped bring the incident to an end.
February 12, 2017
Delaware County Daily Times: Home-grown fare to feed the people of Chester
Come springtime the Fare & Square in Chester will begin selling locally grown fruits and vegetables that were grown at the Ruth L. Bennett Homes Community Garden thanks to a new partnership announced last week. “Where will you run into a housing authority that supplies a grocery store,” said Steve Fischer, the executive director of the CHA.
January 25, 2017
Chester Spirit: CHA extends leader’s contract
The Chester Housing Authority (CHA) Board of Commissioners will keep Executive Director Steven A. Fischer around until at least 2021. Fischer’s contract that the board has extended had been sent to expire in March 2017.
December 30, 2016
Chester City Blog: Steve Fischer is too cool for the Housing Authority
Steven A. Fischer has brought his New York City swag to Chester and totally revamped the Chester Housing Authority. Today we learn that he was rewarded with a new contract to keep doing what he’s doing ’til the end of time’ (in my George Michael voice).
December 29, 2016
Delaware County Daily Times: CHA’s ‘less is more’ boss gets contract extension
More than a year ahead of the current contract’s expiration, the Chester Housing Authority has extended Executive Director Steven A. Fischer’s contract into 2021. After arriving in 2005, Fischer took a less-is-more approach, quickly shrinking the size of the CHA staff while increasing the number of services. Once in receivership, Fischer was able to help guide the ailing CHA back to solvency while increasing the number of programs available to residents.
August 6, 2016
Philadelphia Inquirer: In Chester program, food for body - and mind
On a pleasant morning this week ripe for playing outside, Jahmad Lundy, 11, was doing what many adults would find abhorrent: He was sitting in front of a computer screen in a beige, air-conditioned room, transfixed by an online program displayed on a large television monitor. The program was graphing out sound waves inside the room, and Lundy - who wore a black T-shirt - watched as the lines on the screen grew larger and smaller depending on how loudly he spoke.
July 28, 2016
Delaware County Daily Times Letter to the Editor: Judge Shapiro’s legacy - A better Chester
An extraordinary champion who made an incredible impact on Chester, federal Judge Norma L. Shapiro, passed away over the weekend at the age of 87. During her 20-year oversight of the Chester Housing Authority, Judge Shapiro took control of a beleaguered institution destroyed by decades of patronage and mismanagement and turned it into a high-performing agency. She proved that things could, in fact, be set right in Chester if its leaders were committed and willing to put in the work.
July 11, 2016
Delaware County Daily Times: Chester Housing Authority targets Chester children for technology boost
The Chester Housing Authority is offering new lunchtime learning sessions that invite children to learn more deeply about the phones in their pockets to gain deeper understanding of the tools that automate much of the modern world. This summer the CHA has introduced curriculum for children under 18-years-old to learn the basics of coding, practicing on desktop computers in Google Docs and similar online-based applications, the kids will eventually learn the deeper nuances of computer programming.
June 22, 2016
The Spirit: CHA expands summer food program to include computer coding for kids
The Chester Housing Authority’s (CHA) summer food program, now in its third year, is adding a valuable educational component this year – computer coding lessons, geared especially toward elementary school children. Since its launch in 2014, the summer food program has attracted more and more Chester families each year and is expected to serve more than 10,000 meals this summer. CHA executive director Steven A. Fischer determined that the program afforded a perfect opportunity to help kids learn the basics of coding.
June 6, 2016
The Spirit: Documentary Honors Chester Icon
To mark the 100th anniversary of the Great Migration of six million African-Americans from the South, Philadelphia’s Scribe Video Center, last week, presented nine short documentaries about urban life at a special event held at the International House, on the University of Pennsylvania campus. One of those documentaries told the little-known story of Ruth L. Bennett.
May 25, 2016
Chester City Blog: Chester Housing Authority’s Community Farm Recognized as Mayoral Point of Light
The Chester Housing Authority’s community farm has been recognized with Mayor Kirkland’s first Point of Light, an effort to highlight positive activities happening in the city. At the May 11th City Council session, Terrence Topping-Brown, who directs the 2-acre farm and its programming at Ruth L. Bennett Homes, delivered a presentation about all of the benefits the farm generates; environmental, personal, educational and physical.
April 28, 2016
The Spirit: Fire suppression devices going into every CHA kitchen
It's called the "StoveTop FireStop" automatic fire suppressor, a device that costs only about $20 but can save the Chester Housing Authority (CHA) thousands in fire damage. Chester Fire Commissioner Travis Thomas joined CHA officials last week for a demonstration of the device for the CHA Board of Commissioners, which approved buying the devices for all public housing homes in the city.
April 4, 2016
Daily Gazette: Documenting Oral Histories of Ruth L. Bennett
If you came up to the Language Resource Center on the third floor of Kohlberg the past few weeks, you may have seen a group working in the corner on a video project about Ruth L. Bennett. This project is part of an initiative by the Scribe Video Center to document precious places around Philadelphia. They partnered with the Chester Housing Authority to create a video about Ruth L. Bennett, who was a prominent member of the Chester community in the early 1900’s and the first president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Chester.
March 30, 2016
Chester City Blog: CHA Commissioners Dedicate Day to Reviewing Rules
The Chester Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners underwent a day of training this month, devoting special time to reviewing the many daunting laws and rules that govern public housing. Retreating to the Pendle Hill conference center in Wallingford, the day was devoted to ensuring the board’s ability to provide proper oversight of the agency.
January 19, 2016
Chester City Blog: CHA and Widener University students Mark MLK Day with Children’s Learning Activities
Activities linked to Dr. Martin Luther King highlighted the holiday Monday for children at the Chester Housing Authority’s Booker T. Washington Community Center. As their Day of Service, 20 students from Widener University planned and oversaw crafts and other activities for the kids and even served them lunch.
December 9, 2015
Chester Spirit: Thumbs up for CHA a year after court ends oversight Feds say public housing works well in Chester
In its first review of the Chester Housing Authority (CHA) since the agency emerged from 20 years of federal court oversight at the beginning of 2014, the U. S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) says CHA is operating its public housing and Housing Choice Voucher programs extremely well. In addition, the assessment notes positive communication between CHA and the residents it serves.
November 13, 2015
Delaware County Daily Times: Chester Housing Authority Seeks New Tenants
The city’s housing authority will be accepting applications for low-income home renters for the first time since 2011. According to a news release from the Chester Housing Authority, low-income families, senior citizens and the disabled will have until Nov. 30 to submit an application to lease a home through the CHA.
November 13, 2015
Philadelphia Inquirer: Chester housing applications are due by Nov. 30
For the first time in four years, the Chester Housing Authority is accepting housing applications for the nearly 800 public rental properties it manages.
November 11, 2015
Chester Spirit: CHA accepting new applications for first time in 4 years
For the first time since 2011, the Chester Housing Authority (CHA) is accepting new applications for the agency’s affordable homes for rent. Low-income families, seniors and disabled citizens have until Nov. 30th to fill out the online application to lease an available home through CHA.
October 22, 2015
Philadelphia Inquirer: Chester housing authority cited as most improved
The Chester Housing Authority, the once-beleaguered public housing agency that operated under receivership for two decades, has been cited as the most improved public housing authority in the nation, according to a survey by HAI Group, an insurer of nearly 1,400 housing authorities across the country. Beating nearly 150 housing agencies in its category, the Chester agency received the award for achieving the greatest decline in the number of insurance claims filed and a reduction in the cost of claims paid by the insurer.
September 4, 2015
ChesterPA Blog: More Families Benefiting from Chester Housing Authority’s Summer Food Program
Following a successful roll-out last year, the Chester Housing Authority has completed its second annual Summer Food Service Program, serving more than twice as many meals as last year. In addition, the added attraction of refurbished computer labs at the three community centers where the meals are served helped children to keep their minds sharp during the summer season.
August 2, 2015
Philadelphia Inquirer: Seeds of change - A farm grows in Chester
Pedaling wildly along her block in Chester, Jade Mills approached the chain-link fence, dropped her bike, and sprinted toward a picnic table lined with bins of fruit. "What's this?" the 5-year-old said, plopping a plump cherry into her mouth as she wiggled onto a bench alongside her friends. "I've never had one of these before." "It's a raspberry," replied one friend. "No, it's a crop," said another. "What's a crop?" Mills asked.
July 29, 2015
Chester Spirit: CCSA acquires long-vacant public housing land in Chester
The Chester Charter School for the Arts (CCSA) is coming home to Chester, thanks to a $2.3 million agreement to purchase an 11-acre site from the Chester Housing Authority (CHA). The site is located on Highland Ave. from just above 12th St. to Township Line Rd.
July 28, 2015
Delaware County Daily Times: CCSA to purchase property from Chester Housing Authority
The Chester Charter School for the Arts will be returning to its namesake city in 2017 after agreeing to purchase a large tract of land from the Chester Housing Authority. The 11-acre site on Highland Avenue, between 12th Street and Township Line Road, will be home to a newly-built school for the arts-based charter, which is expanding its curriculum to high school grades beginning this fall.
July 21, 2015
Philadelphia Inquirer: Charter will be moving facilities to Chester
An Aston Township-based charter school dedicated to the arts says it is moving its facilities to Chester to better serve its students, many of whom live in the city. The Chester Charter School for the Arts on Monday announced the purchase of an 11-acre site from the Chester Housing Authority. The school would open there in September 2017.
June 30, 2015
Chester City Blog: Chester Housing Authority Recognized for Anti-Smoking Effort
The Chester Housing Authority has been recognized by the PA Dept. of Health for the agency’s efforts to protect the health of children and families by preventing tobacco exposure in public settings.
Main Line Today: The Fight to Bring Chester Back From the Brink
“Don’t know why there’s no sun up in the sky / Stormy weather …” The great jazz/blues vocalist Ethel Waters, a native of Chester, may have been the first to sing this classic song in public, doing so in a 1933 nightclub performance. About four decades later, the sun disappeared from her hometown’s sky. Once an industrial power-house, the city lost its bearings, a victim of urban upheaval and the changing economy. The tax base shrank, the crime rate spiked, and survival became the order of the day. In the depth and swiftness of its decline, Chester had—and has—plenty of company across America. This city by the river, whose shipbuilding muscle had seen the country through a couple of world wars, fell into the clutches of receivership. Recently, though, commitment and creative thinking from many quarters have begun to tug Chester from the bog.
April 29, 2015
Chester City Blog: Chester Housing Authority Creating Blueberry Fields Forever
Beginning in July and through mid-August everything will be coming up blueberries at the Chester Housing Authority. CHA staff and residents spent part of Earth Day April 22 planting the agency’s newly expanded – and now two acre – urban farm for the 2015 harvest. In all, 85 blueberry bushes of four different varieties were planted: Elliot, Pink Lemonade, North Country and Duke.
January 28, 2015
Chester Spirit Editorial: Chester Housing Authority Ain’t Broke and Doesn’t Need Fixing
In the world of partisan politics, it may seem that elected officials grab for any morsel of power or influence they can get – all in the name of “public service.” Sometimes they get it right; sometimes – oft times- they don’t. So when there are examples of government that works just fine, elected officials should be grateful to leave well enough alone and appreciate that things are running smoothly.
January 28, 2015
Delaware County Daily Times Guest Column: Courageous women stepped up to transform housing authority
The beginning of the new year brought a significant change to Chester, the end of the federal court’s direct oversight of the Housing Authority. This event should provide both a great moment of pride for the city and a time of appreciation for the people who played key roles in converting our housing authority from “the worst in the nation” to among the best. The appreciation begins with four courageous Chester women — Yvonne Carrington, Barbara Gooby-Muhammad, Ella Thompson and the late Ernestine Tilghman — who in the late 1980s challenged the status quo and filed suit in federal court over what generously could be described as deplorable living conditions in public housing.
January 18, 2015
Delaware County Daily Times: Chester Housing Authority gives ex-convicts a second chance
Wilbert L. Jarrett Sr. is a 45-year-old Parkside resident employed as a mechanic’s aid for the Chester Housing Authority. He is a married father of four. He is a Navy veteran who served for eight years. And he is an ex-convict. Jarrett served 18 months in prison for a 2008 conviction of drug possession with intent, and since his release has been working for the housing authority under a program where ex-offenders are given a job and an opportunity to turn theirs lives around. He has been a model employee, according to CHA Executive Director Steve Fischer, and Jarrett said the job has given him a chance to succeed in life.
January 7, 2015
Chester Spirit: Free at last! After 20 years, Chester Housing Authority returned to local control
The Chester Housing Authority (CHA), after 20 years under control of a federal court judge, has been released from its receivership and, according to federal court Judge Norma L. Shapiro, has earned the privilege of self-determination. To be sure, CHA has come a long way since a late 1980’s lawsuit filed against it for deplorable conditions under which many residents lived. The suit led to a takeover of the authority by the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). When HUD was unsuccessful in producing needed changes, it asked Shapiro to assume oversight herself in June 1994. In lifting the receivership, Shapiro cited “dramatic improvements” over the years that include safer property conditions, a better voucher program and housing authority staff members serving on national industry boards.
January 6, 2015
Philadelphia Inquirer: Judge ends oversight of Chester Housing Authority
Decades after dilapidated buildings filled with crime and drugs drove tenants to file a class-action lawsuit against the Chester Housing Authority, the agency has been released from federal receivership. The move, announced Monday, marks the completion of an overhaul of the public housing agency, which had been under the oversight of a federal judge since 1994.
January 5, 2015
Delaware County Daily Times: Judge terminates receivership of Chester Housing Authority
A federal judge terminated the nearly 25-year receivership of the Chester Housing Authority on Dec. 31, saying that the appointed leaders of the agency have made significant progress in helping to turn it around. Judge Norma L. Shapiro issued an order Dec. 31 that returns control of the housing authority to its appointed Board of Commissioners, a move that came after a year of planning. The receivership began in 1990 following a federal lawsuit filed by several residents of housing authority properties who claimed the authority was not providing adequate housing. Many housing units were in disrepair and unsanitary, and the governing body had been overwhelmed by corruption.
November 14, 2014
Chester Spirit: CHA recognized for managing safe properties
There was a time when the Chester Housing Authority (CHA) faced constant lawsuits related to slips and falls. But like so many of the legacy issues that once plagued CHA, the non-stop lawsuits have now slowed to a trickle. HAI Group, an organization that serves the public and affordable housing community with niche insurance programs and other value-added products and services, has presented CHA with its Low Loss Achievement Award, an honor recognizing the relatively small number of personal injuries that occur on CHA property.
November 28, 2014
Philadelphia Inquirer: Building a new vision of Chester
Boarded-up homes served as stash houses for drugs. Vacant lots were filled with trash. Children took detours on their way home from school to avoid the area. Those images defined a neighborhood for years, making Madison and Rose Streets some of the most dangerous in the city of Chester. Today, Christmas lights and wreaths hang from brick rowhouses. Freshly painted red doors have replaced the wooden boards that covered the abandoned properties. A park with benches and flower boxes fills a plot of land that was known as a meeting place for drug dealers.
October 20, 2014
Next City: The Housing Crisis We Don’t Talk About
Donnie Evans, an itinerant handyman in the city of Chester, Pa., desperately needed somewhere to stay. A former dockworker who had struggled to get by since the city’s shipyards closed in 1989, Evans, 51, was in a fight with his girlfriend. The one thing they agreed on was that it would be best for him to move out of the apartment they shared — and fast. The situation felt urgent; he had no leads on apartments he could afford, and the waiting lists for the Chester Housing Authority’s Section 8 vouchers and project-based housing were closed. When a landlord Evans knew offered him a place, he did not refuse.
September 17, 2014
Delaware County Daily Times Letter: CHA to HUD - Safety first
To the Times: Recently, some of our senior residents at the Chester Housing Authority held a news conference to raise concerns about perceived security reduction in their apartment building. The event came as a surprise in that changes have yet to be made and we were in the middle of discussions on working out a plan. In addition, the resident leaders are keenly aware that our senior buildings offer more security than any similar apartments in Chester. But there’s an even larger issue that this situation raises.
June 14, 2014
Delaware County Daily Times: Portrait session in Chester captures snapshots of fatherhood
CHESTER — Derek Hales held the picture of him gingerly tilting his head toward his autistic 6-year-old son after getting their portrait taken Saturday afternoon at the Ruth L. Bennett Community Center.
July 15, 2014
Philadelphia Inquirer: Free meals available to Chester children
The Chester Housing Authority is serving meals to children this summer through a new, federally funded program. The housing authority began serving breakfast and lunch last week to children who live in its buildings in Chester.
July 17, 2014
Delaware County Daily Times: Senior shuttle service comes to Fair & Square
The Chester Housing Authority is partnering with the Fare and Square grocery store to offer shuttle service to senior citizens who wish to shop at the nation’s first non-profit market. The service will run between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. every Wednesday beginning today.
July 16, 2014
Chester City Blog: Chester Housing Authority Stresses Nutrition with Launch of Summer Food Program
For the past several years, the Chester Housing Authority has focused on encouraging residents to eat healthier - so to Executive Director Steven Fischer, it just made sense to begin a summer food program for the agency’s low-income children during the summer. “Providing a summer food program for the kids is consistent with our philosophy of helping kids and adults eat properly throughout the year,” Fischer said. “When we learned that USDA made funds available for this kind of program we jumped at the opportunity.”
June 12, 2014
Philadelphia Inquirer: Free portraits for dads and kids in Chester
A father's discussion group in Chester will celebrate Father's Day this weekend by offering free portraits to fathers and their children. The group, called Fathers Are Talking, began in Chester two years ago to encourage young fathers to remain active in their children's lives. Organized through the Chester Housing Authority, the men meet to talk about their experiences as fathers.
June 14, 2014
Chester City Blog: Photos for Fathers a success
Steve Fischer, executive director of the Chester Housing Authority, helped organize Fathers Are Talking, a group of fathers who assemble to talk about issues men face as fathers and issues they face with their fathers.
June 10, 2014
Chester Spirit: CHA celebrating fathers with free dad-son portraits
Jon Whittington, a resident at Ruth L. Bennett Homes, knows something about being a father. He has four grown children, 11 grandkids and two great grandchildren. Since helping to form Fathers Are Talking two years ago, the Chester Housing Authority (CHA) resident says one of the key messages group members have tried to convey is that if people did a better job as dads, we would have a better city.
May 12, 2014
Delaware County Daily Times: New era has dawned for Chester Housing Authority
Driving through the neighborhoods administered by the Chester Housing Authority, one might not believe that 23 years ago properties were in such disrepair that the federal government was forced to take over their operation. Now, after even the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development failed in maintaining the projects, a series of court-appointed receivers have helped turn around the organization that was once fraught with corruption and ineffective in its mission.
May 8, 2014
Chester City Blog: Chester Housing Authority Receives Clean Financial Audit
Chester Housing Authority has been given a clean financial audit for fiscal year 2013, marking the eighth consecutive year under Executive Director Steven Fischer that auditors have reported financial operations of the agency totally in order. “The citizens of Chester have learned in recent years that not only does our housing authority operate openly and honestly but efficiently delivers services that the population we serve needs and expects,” Fischer said. “Receiving a clean audit validates the integrity with which we strive to do business.”
April 22, 2014
Chester City Blog: Chester Housing Authority Preparing Community Garden for Planting
Employees of the Chester Housing Authority (CHA) came out from behind their desks on Earth Day to prepare the agency’s community garden for spring planting just off of West 9th Street. With shovels, tillers, rakes and garden scissors in hand, about 25 staffers spent the morning bringing the site back to life and began planting the fruits and vegetables that will sprout this summer.
April 19, 2014
Chester City Blog: Chester Housing Authority Staff to volunteer part of Earth Day Preparing Community Garden for Planting
Today, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities. As the urban population grows, cities must evolve. CHA has been doing its small part to foster sustainable dependence on our own land in the few available places. The Ruth L. Bennett Homes Community Garden is now entering its fifth year, thanks to the efforts of residents, students and many CHA staff members.
April 12, 2014
Philadelphia Inquirer: Housing authority program helps Chester residents get in shape
Tara Fontaine was recovering from gastric bypass surgery in the fall of 2011 when a flier arrived at her doorstep. It was an invitation to a new health and fitness program that the Chester Housing Authority was organizing for its residents.
April 10, 2014
Chester City Blog: Chester Housing Authority’s brand of healthy transformation
Residents Tara Fontaine and Deborah Montgomery have been involved with the CHA health project from the very beginning. When the project first got started in 2011, the women were part of a group that spent time developing the Bennett Community Garden, exercising in small groups and hosting healthy food workshops.
April 2, 2014
Chester Spirit: CHA hopes to renew fitness program; seeking support from businesses
Now that spring has finally sprung, the Chester Housing Authority (CHA) is encouraging residents to think more about health and fitness. CHA Executive Director Steven A. Fischer wants to bring back the agency’s successful Anume (A New Me) program and has started searching for businesses that will support the program. Two have already agreed to support.