East Chicago residents uprooted by lead contamination meet with officials

EAST CHICAGO, Ind. (WLS) -- Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson says it's clear that residents forced to move from a public-housing complex in East Chicago because of lead contamination feel uprooted. The discovery forced hundreds of people to relocate in what many say has been a flawed but necessary process.

However, he said Monday said it's important to recognize the people needed to be removed from harm's way, and that the relocation has been done in a "good way."

About 300 families moved from the West Calumet Housing Complex in the past year after tests found high lead levels in blood samples of some children.

"I'm like a fish out of water," said Demetra Turner, a former resident.

Several officials met Monday with former residents of the West Calumet Housing Authority Complex.

"You can talk, you can listen, but I what to see what you're going to do," said Tara Adams, a former resident.

"We are absolutely not convinced that the relocation was a success. There are still folks who are still struggling and who are suffering and who have not been made whole as a result of the relocation," said Rev. Cheryl Rivera, Calumet Lives Matter.

While a plan to rebuild West Calumet is in the works, work has begun to remediate some properties outside of the Complex.

"We have to take the injustice and right it. And that right comes when we restore that property to residential standards," East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland said.

The officials acknowledge the transition has not been perfect for the residents who had to move, but they hope to learn from this.

"Are there better ways to do it? Probably. And are we learning what they are? Absolutely. And will we use those to try to prevent these types of problems in the future? We absolutely will," Carson said.

For residents forced to move, the learning curve has been sharp. Demetra Turner wanted to be in the meeting but instead was outside with other holding signs.

"I'm left struggling to find where resources are at in order to try to get my daughter prepared for school on the 15th. And I'm not from out there, this is my community out here," Turner said.

Turner said she also had to quit her job because she could not continue to commute from past Joliet back to East Chicago every day.
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