Tenant Leadership Project making streets safer in their community

From left to right: Cheryl Barnes, Melvin Washington, Brenda Jones, Anthony Pulli, Georgette Gordon, Tanya Hamilton, Sheila Lewis, Priscilla Lamb, and Elfrieda Dunbar, all of whom are current or former Mercy Housing residents and leaders on the campaign.

Tanya Hamilton, a resident of Mercy Housing’s Harold and Margot Schiff Residences, can now return safely home from the grocery store in her wheelchair. This has not always been the case. Previously, cars would challenge residents who tried to cross the road with 40 mile per hour speeds and no stop light in sight. Tanya’s work with Mercy Housing Lakefront’s Tenant Leadership Project assured that nobody has to worry about crossing this busy street again!

For years residents and visitors to the area have struggled to find a safer route across the busy Clybourn corridor. For those who use wheelchairs the situation proved especially difficult.

“Before they put that ramp in, I had to go a ways down the street to cross at an unpaved and dangerous alley, then I’d still have to risk my safety dodging cars on Clybourn that would speed by without a reason to slow down,” recalls Andrew Jefferson, Mercy Housing Resident and Tenant Leader.

Beginning in 2007, Tenant Leaders organized to make the street safer. They met several times with their local Alderman to request that stop signs with an ADA ramp and crosswalk be installed to ensure a safer passage for those crossing the street.

As the Alderman dragged his feet to take steps to fix the issue, Tenant Leaders remained steadfast in their commitment to a safer street. After gathering several hundred signatures from local residents, business owners, and patrons in the area, making repeated phone calls to the Alderman’s office and the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, and remaining dedicated to their cause, stop signs were finally installed in January 2011. “It was our persistence that prevailed in us getting the stop sign and the ramp; it took a long time to get it, but we didn’t stop,” explained Anthony Pulli, also a Mercy Housing Resident and leader of the campaign.

Not only is it now possible for all residents to cross the street safely, but community members who took the initiative to change what for years had been a treacherous crossing have seen what it means assume a leadership role to initiate and achieve what will be a lasting improvement to their community.