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Sister Sheila Lyne left Chicago a better city

She is credited with dramatically increasing funding for AIDS, and she did much more in her nine years as head of the Chicago Department of Public Health.

Sister Sheila Lyne
Sister Sheila Lyne, who headed the Chicago Department of Public Health from 1991 to 2000 and was president of Mercy Hospital & Medical Center for nearly 30 years, died on March 10 at age 83.
Sun-Times Media

Upon reading of the death of former Chicago Public Health Commissioner Sheila Lyne, we were reminded of what a true public health hero she was. Sister Lyne was credited with dramatically increasing funding for AIDS, and she will be remembered for much more than that. During her nine years running the Chicago Department of Public Health:

- She established the department’s first epidemiology office to better use data to drive public health decision-making.

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- She was taken into custody for defying a court order to conduct lead poisoning testing on older students who were not viewed as high risk. She refused to waste public health resources, and upon intervention from the Illinois Supreme Court she was released.

- She built a daycare center at the Robert Taylor Homes to remove access barriers to the Grand Boulevard Clinic.

- She successfully pushed for the passage of the Managed Care Consumer Protection Ordinance, and she established the nation’s first municipal effort to monitor the managed care industry.

- She released one of the nation’s most comprehensive violence prevention strategic plans.

- She established the department’s first Office of Lesbian and Gay Health, recognizing that the LGBT community should not be defined by AIDS.

Chicago is better for having had the leadership of Sheila Lyne. As we are now in the midst of another public health crisis, we should take comfort in knowing we still have strong leadership at the Health Department.

Erica Salem and Patrick Lenihan, Lakeview

Protection against housing discrimination threatened

People with disabilities in our city, state and nationwide are in a housing crisis. There simply isn’t enough safe, affordable, accessible housing available to them and housing-related discrimination is all too common.

Since 2004, Access Living has received approximately 50,000 inquiries from people in search of accessible, affordable housing; and housing discrimination against people with disabilities continues to make up the majority of fair housing complaints.

Now, a new rule proposed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) could make a bad situation worse.

The Fair Housing Act requires municipalities to take steps to address discrimination of all kinds that prevents people from accessing housing. This requirement is called “affirmatively furthering fair housing (AFFH).” Despite this requirement, municipalities historically took few steps to do so, particularly as it involved people with disabilities.

Then in 2015, HUD added a rule to give teeth to the AFFH requirement. It said municipalities had to identify barriers to fair housing in their community and then develop concrete steps to address and overcome them. The rule offered great hope for people with disabilities and other minorities because it provided a way to proactively work toward data-driven solutions to address discrimination and undo segregation.

Now, HUD proposes to completely dismantle the 2015 rule. They want to eliminate the requirement for jurisdictions to perform an analysis of the fair housing barriers in their communities to identify ways to overcome them, as well as the requirement to engage those impacted to work toward solutions, thus ensuring that people with disabilities and others will continue to be segregated and to face discrimination.

If the changes are approved, they will destroy a crucial tool to address systemic discrimination and segregation. We should be expanding access to fair and accessible housing, not reducing it. We urge you to submit a comment about these changes to HUD via its website. Comments are due no later than Monday, March 16.

Access Living
Chicago Area Fair Housing Alliance
Housing Action Illinois
Housing Choice Partners
Legal Aid Chicago
Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing