East Chicago families forced to move out of homes due to soil contamination

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Hundreds of families were forced to move from their East Chicago homes due to contaminated soil.

Hundreds of families were forced to move from their East Chicago homes due to contaminated soil.

Demetra Turner has been packing and living out of boxes for months. Her plan was to move out of East Chicago's lead contaminated West Calumet housing complex sooner, but she and dozens of other families who remain there cannot find a new place to live.

"I've been looking nonstop for somewhere to move since we first got vouchers in August of 2016," Turner said.

Because it is not required by law in East Chicago for landlords to accept Section 8 vouchers, many West Calumet families are being rejected.

After high levels of lead were found at this complex last year, all residents were ordered to move.

"I think it's best to move out for our well-being, but the way they are doing this is all wrong," Jalisa Wash, West Calumet complex resident said.

While many are gone, for the 80 or so families that remain, time is ticking. This week, the Housing Authority sent letters giving them until April 7 to move to units assigned to them. Some are in Chicago.

Turner said she left Chicago 10 years ago for a reason and she refuses to be forced into moving back.

"I had boys who were younger, I moved out of Chicago to save them. The gang violence I was not going to let that happen to them," she said.

In addition, Turner said does not want to move far from her job as a sales associate in North West Indiana.

The nonprofit Shriver Center is helping families relocate. Lawyer Emily Coffey is most worried about the kids.

"There are children that have learning disabilities as a result of lead contamination here who going to be forced to change schools at the end of the year," Coffey said.

For those residents who refuse to move to Chicago, the Shriver Center will help them file appeals. Meantime, a lot of the residents that remain plan to have a protest at the East Chicago mayor's office Friday afternoon.

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newssoil contaminationEast Chicago
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