June 30, 2016
By Ryne Poelker
A 72 bed shelter in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago is at risk of closing due to the Illinois Governor and State Legislator failing to pass a budget. Located in the People’s Church at 941 W Lawrence Avenue, the shelter is run by the Interim Housing Program of North Side Housing and Supportive Services. The executive director and board have stated that they will have to close the facility if the state does not pass a budget by July 31st.
The shelter is open 365 days a year; and in the past year, more than 320 different men spent a total of 18,000 nights at the shelter even during the year’s coldest most brutal months. Hundreds of Uptown’s homeless have had to sleep outside this past winter. With another large shelter closing due to a lack of priorities by the people in charge of our state, scores of more people will be sleeping outside in tents or on the bare ground.
If the shelter closes, this will also have an effect on the other services and programs that are managed out of the building, The Preston Bradley Center. They will be adversely impacted or will cease to exist if the shelter falls through. Flats Chicago, a high-income developer known for flipping and displacing buildings in the area, have called the church over a year ago asking them to sell the property. Presumably, they are once again interested in making another community institution inaccessible and unaffordable for the majority of existing residents in the area. As of now the church has no intention of selling, but the closure of the shelter and their services will certainly impact their financing and put the entire community center at risk.
If Mayor Emanuel and Alderman Cappleman intend to be sincere on their pilot program and putting people into housing, then certainly they could try to prevent several hundred more people from sleeping outside. There’s little room for excuses for not providing a small amount of money to keep the shelter running when they recently voted to give a luxury housing developer a $16 million TIF and a massive tax break until 2034. About 2% or less of the money they gave to a nearby developer would be enough to keep the facility afloat. Their pilot program, though mere political theatre from the beginning, will be virtually useless if they can’t provide a small fraction of money towards keeping hundreds of more people in a shelter from sleeping outside.
Though the city could step in and save the shelter, blame is also on the state for this fiasco. While we have a universally hated Republican governor instituting a coup d’état on the state, most Democrats are also calling for compromises on cuts that will still adversely impact homeless services, mental healthcare and affordable housing options. As of now, they are providing little to no alternative to Republicans by not calling for aggressive enough taxes on those at the very top of the income brackets.
It should also be said that there are those here at the neighborhood level that could take some notice. Two of Ald. Cappleman’s top donors and very staunch supporters, James and Catherine Denny of Uptown Recording, have given both Governor Rauner and the Illinois Republican Party tens of thousands of dollars. While Cappleman loves to portray himself as a progressive, one was to wonder why hard right conservatives are giving him so much money. Not only are they giving him thousands, but they are some of his very top donors. What is he doing here at the neighborhood level that makes him so attractive to such people? If he wishes to distance himself from the causes of such extreme budget actions on the most vulnerable of our community, then perhaps he could donate back the campaign money these individuals have given him towards the shelter on the brink of closure instead. Just a thought.
Donate to the church shelter here to keep them open long enough for a budget to pass: