Daily Herald article leads to low-income residents keeping apartments
Paula Pedersen's son Sean spent two years at Harper College that ended with his giving the commencement address there, before going to Columbia University in New York to major in sociology.
Thanks to his hard work there, he's now on a full-ride scholarship in Germany.
But it all started with having a roof over their heads in an Schaumburg, an area with great schools, libraries and park district programs, Pedersen said.
"I tell (Sean) all the time, 'You're the richest poor kid I know,'" she said. "That has been the saving grace -- he's had a roof over his head. Whether you're smart or stupid, you can't do anything without that.
"When the paper wrote that article, within two weeks the Tree House and Cook County got together to talk about how we could stay."
Pedersen herself has been back to school twice since then, but has been interrupted by further hospitalizations. Yet she's still determined to improve her health and professional skills and find a job.
"I'm the kind of person that if someone does me a favor, I'm going to follow through," Pedersen said. "I'm not just a taker."
Editor's note: This is an abbreviated version of a story that ran Dec. 26, 2011
By Eric Peterson
In May 2011, Paula Pedersen learned terrifying news that seemed to threaten the future she'd envisioned for her 21-year-old son Sean's future.
The Housing Authority of Cook County vouchers that had saved the low-income mother and son from homelessness for nearly two decades weren't going to be able to match the higher rents that would accompany a $20 million upgrade to the Tree House Luxury Apartments in Schaumburg.
Though management at the Tree House was sympathetic to the plight of the roughly 60 families on subsidized housing, there didn't seem to be much they could do to change the way the voucher rules affected their market-driven renovation, Pedersen said.
A number of medical problems, including a seizure disorder, diabetes and arthritis, had made regular employment difficult for her in recent years. Her highest annual income during her time at the Tree House had been $14,000.
The desperate, God-fearing woman prayed -- and then called the Daily Herald.
Shortly after an article on the situation was published, Cook County Housing Authority officials met with Tree House management and worked out a way for those who wanted to stay to do so.
The only sacrifice these residents had to make in the end was to pay about $60 more per month for utilities and to move to different units as the renovation progressed.
Some families, like Pedersen's, were so short of additional money that even such a short-distance move would be a financial burden.
But the football team at Immaculate Conception High School in Elmhurst also learned of the situation from the Daily Herald and volunteered to move them during the hottest days of summer.
Staying in Schaumburg allowed her son to begin pursuing a degree at Harper College, Pedersen said.
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