When someone makes a mistake, we expect them to atone for it in some way.
We also expect, in the interest of fairness, that the atonement will be equal in magnitude to the initial wrongdoing.
The question that inevitably becomes relevant in addressing mistakes, then, is when to say that enough has been done to make up for them.
With respect to the lead-contaminated public housing complex in East Chicago, Indiana, the time to say “enough” was supposed to be Friday. By that day, about 320 families were scheduled to leave the West Calumet Housing Complex and be relocated to safer accommodations.
Despite this deadline, fifty families remain in the complex. They had been given five months of reduced rent to search for new homes and government vouchers for other comparable housing complexes, yet for one reason or another, it appears that they will be remaining past the deadline set by the state.
When this story first broke, the Editorial Board condemned the decision to build government housing on land previously occupied by a lead-products factory because we felt that it should have been obvious that contamination would become problematic.
The results of tests conducted by the Indiana Department of Health last summer showing lead levels more than 70 times the acceptable standard should have come as no surprise.
Since then, however, we think the state government has made every reasonable attempt to remedy the situation and should be proud of the 270 families that have been successfully relocated thus far.
To move so many people in such a short time is no easy task and demonstrates an improved commitment to public safety and atoning for the initial mistake of this building’s location.
The Editorial Board also understands that circumstances for the remaining 50 families are not ideal. Some parents are concerned that the neighborhoods offered for relocation present their own dangers and might not necessarily be safer than East Chicago.
Tara Adams, mother to a 19-year-old son and an 11-year-old daughter, was concerned that the temporary housing she’d been offered was on the south side of Chicago.
“I for sure don’t want to move my 19-year-old son into an area where there’s a greater chance for him to get shot,” Adams said in an interview to the New York Times.
While the concern of Adams and parents in situations like hers deserves a fair and safe solution, the Editorial Board believes that the state made the right decisions in its use of limited resources and should consider the relocation process a success overall.
Issues with the comparative safety and educational and employment opportunities of alternative neighborhoods go beyond the scope of relocation due to lead contamination.
Any time government entities attempt to provide services for the public, there will inevitably be individual cases for whom those services do not suffice.
However, even if the 50 families still residing in the West Calumet Housing Complex choose not to relocate, the state has provided ample opportunity for them to leave a dangerous situation.
A 100-percent success rate cannot be the standard for this program’s success. The editorial board looks forward to the state helping relocate the remaining families as quickly as possible, as it owes them that.