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. The CHA and its residents are in agreement on the importance of security, but judging from its actions the same cannot be said of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the agency that oversees CHA operations and makes rules on how funds may be allocated.Security for residents and the protection of properties from vandalism is a necessity in Chester with its high crime rate, yet HUD will no longer permit us to divert some funds intended for the upkeep of property for police services. When we argue that our police are protecting our assets and preventing repairs that could cost much more than the officers' salaries, HUD says that doesn't matter; you can't use housing money to pay police, period.At CHA, we are in the business of providing safe and decent homes for the city's most vulnerable population. By HUD's own evaluation we have done an excellent job in Chester transforming a once-mismanaged housing authority. We have established a track record over the past decade of finding every possible efficiency, ending patronage and delivering more services with less money. In addition, we have raised private funds that we use to create programming to further enhance the education and health of our residents. Yet when we ask to be given the discretion to manage our agency in a way that best safeguards our residents and properties — and we have made the request numerous times — HUD says no.In making their announcement, as reported in the Delco Times, residents noted that the violence plaguing our city is happening in neighborhoods surrounding housing authority apartment complexes but not in the complexes themselves. The relative safety of CHA sites is a tribute to our small housing police unit providing security at the buildings. The very same residents that held a news conference recently went to the City Council to express their appreciation for the CHA Police Department. We would very much like to maintain our safety record, protecting our residents and our buildings. That job would be infinitely easier if HUD would allow us the flexibility to use our local knowledge to apply limited resources where they make the most sense. When all is said and done, today's world of government-supported programs must work with less funding, and major adjustments to yesteryear's services will be unavoidable. Everyone from the youngest to the oldest will have to make sacrifices and take on more personal responsibilities. Technology will be applied where possible to overcome fiscal challenges.As we work under the new realities, the CHA and the families who rely on us can continue to work together to keep our communities safe. A more common-sense approach from HUD would help.