Subsidized Housing Recipients Claim Harassment in their Homes

by Vins

The tenants of Concordia Place Apartments in Riverdale, Illinois, have been stalked, followed, harassed, spied on, arrested, and have become isolated from their friends and family members who do not visit for fear of the same treatment. Concordia Place is a Housing and Urban Development (HUD), or Section 8, subsidized apartment complex. Although the Section 8 program was established to subsidize rent prices for lower income families, with a goal of preventing homelessness among those who fall below the poverty line, in practice the program has resulted in gross mistreatment of some tenants who feel they have no alternative except for homelessness. Furthermore, many residents have chosen not to speak out against mistreatment for fear of losing their subsidy. Although some subsidies follow a family from place to place, in apartment complexes like Concordia the subsidy is attached to a specific apartment. In that case, if tenants leave, then their subsidies end, making alternative housing an impossibility for almost every resident there.

There have been multiple lawsuits filed against A-Alert Security for its mistreatment of Concordia Place residents, but these complaints have fallen on deaf ears when it comes to the property’s managers, who continue to employ A-Alert Security. Some of the complaints include people being banned from the property with no warning and then being arrested and charged with criminal trespassing. Other times, A-Alert has set up check points within the complex, stopping any car they did not recognize, intimidating drivers and demanding identification, even if security guards recognized the people in the car.

The owners of the complex insist that before the security firm was hired there was more crime and that security cameras were being shot out, but residents counter that Concordia Place has always been fairly safe. Tenants feel that their safety was not an issue until after A-Alert came into the picture. One tenant tells of a time when someone was trying to break into her home and she called security. Their response was to tell her to call the police; A-Alert did not respond to her call or help her.

One rule that is creating particular controversy is the prohibition against tenants taking video of the security guards. Officially this is a violation of a tenant’s lease, for which they can be evicted. As a result, tenants cannot collect video evidence of security guard’s unprofessional conduct, leaving them with no proof of their claims beyond word of mouth. As a result, the security firm has full reign over the complex and its tenants, many of who cannot afford to move, feel stuck and isolated. Many tenants claim people will no longer pick them up and give them rides because they are too afraid to come onto the property and risk arrest for trespassing, further isolating those already being victimized in their homes.

Source: Jonah Newman, “Section 8 Residents Claim Private Security Company Harasses Them,” Chicago Reporter, September 8, 2015, http://chicagoreporter.com/section-8-residents-feel-terrorized-by-private-security-company/.

Student Researcher: Amanda Lee (Sonoma State University)

Faculty Evaluator: Peter Phillips (Sonoma State University)