Helping local homeless is no easy task – Nadig Newspapers


by Jason Merel and Cyryl Jakubowski

The Chicago Transit Authority said it understands concerns about homelessness at the Jefferson Park terminal and other areas, but some local housing organizers and outreach volunteers say there aren’t many resources on the northwest side who can provide assistance.

“CTA understands that homeless commuters and those congregating in train stations and other city compounds can impact customer experience and that this is a broader social issue, which is ‘extends far beyond our public transit system,’ the CTA said in a statement. The authority said the pandemic and winter season “have exacerbated this challenge” and it is partnering with the city and social service agencies to address the issue.”

Several Jefferson Park housing organizers and outreach volunteers said the Northwest Side needs dedicated social service providers and more warming options to adequately address homelessness in the area and that the mere act of moving homeless people is inhumane.

Alderman James Gardiner (45th) said the neighborhood office recently collected food and clothing for the homeless with Third Place Chicago.

“We understand that the weather is a concern and we do our best to help people who are homeless, but we also understand the concerns of neighborhood residents,” Gardiner said.

Additional heated shelters and public restrooms near the Jefferson Park Transit Center, 4917 N. Milwaukee Ave., would improve short-term quality of life, according to Jefferson Park Forward President Maggie Daly Skogsbakken.

“Sometimes people don’t need the specific help someone is offering, but rather need an ongoing supportive relationship or responsive mental health support,” Skogsbakken said.

“At the end of the day, homeless people can’t carry a lot of stuff. It’s important to be intentional with the things we collect and provide.”

A concern sent to the newspaper and other agencies, including the CTA and the Chicago Police Department, asks why posted signs prohibiting loitering are not enforced. Several CTA users at the terminal indicated that they do not use the heated shelters in cold weather because they are usually busy.

Another person suggested stricter enforcement of rules around loitering on CTA property and turning off the heat in heated shelters which the agency and others have opposed because of their inhumanity.

The lobby of the 16th (Jefferson Park) District Police Station, 5151 N. Milwaukee Ave., is available as a public warming center and the Jefferson Park Public Library, 5363 W. Lawrence Ave., has public restrooms.

“Nothing is easy. Each person can fight their own demons and we try to bring them to the right services they may need,” said a police officer from the 16th district.

The officer said complaints about homelessness are handled on a case-by-case basis and that “simply evicting them isn’t going to happen.” The officer said the department takes action when someone is aggressive or becomes a threat to the public. The 16th Arrondissement is also looking to appoint an Affinity Officer as part of a citywide initiative. The officer is responsible for working with traditionally marginalized people

groups, such as the homeless, according to police. The district also has a new community organizer, who is a civilian position. Asked about how officers deal with the homeless, the CPD Office of Press Affairs provided a link to department guidelines and policies.

The CPD has a “Homeless Bill of Rights” guideline which is consistent with the State’s Bill of Rights for Homelessness Act which states that the rights, privileges or access to public services of no one can be turned away ‘solely because he or she is homeless’. .”

“Such a person shall be granted the same rights and privileges as any other citizen of that state,” the directive reads.

The directive also states that homeless people have the right to use and move freely in public spaces “including, but not limited to, public pavements, public parks, public transport and public buildings. , in the same way as any other person and without discrimination on the basis of their homeless status”.

Anyone sleeping in a shelter, outdoors, in a vehicle or in a place not intended for human habitation can call 3-1-1 to request transportation to a shelter, according to the city’s website. Chicago. However, these requests can take between 3 and 7 days to complete and requests for accommodations greatly exceed the city’s ability to provide it, according to Chicago NWS Homeless Outreach volunteer Monica Dillon.

“Shelters across the city have less capacity due to the pandemic,” Dillon said. “There is no emergency shelter program (with support services) on the northwest side. If people are lucky, they can get a bed in a shelter, after waiting for days, but the city ​​gets about 150 calls a day for only five available beds.”

“A couple of homeless people told me that there were police who helped them when they were victims of crime,” Dillon said. “It really helps to develop relationships and build relationships. If something happens to them in the future, they will tell those same officers, but developing that relationship takes time and trust.”

State Representative Lindsey LaPointe (D-19), who is associated with the Jefferson Park Homelessness Task Force, said she and a group of local volunteers recently spoke to Department of Services officials family and supportive of dysfunctional elements of the system.

“Honestly, we were giving them information on how it was going, they recognized it was an issue and they would look into it,” LaPointe said. “Our shelter system and our social service system have to meet people’s needs, so it’s very important to take a moment, have conversations and assess what they need.”

LaPointe said the best way to do that is through street outreach.

The Chicago Coordinated Entry System is one of the first steps to accessing housing. The system uses a standardized housing assessment and a number of factors affect prioritization within the system, including veteran status, age, and length of time without housing. This system aims to prioritize the needs of those who do not have access to any form of adequate shelter.

Dillon said part of outreach is motivational talks to guide people to resources or set goals, but ultimately the challenge is that it’s up to each individual to seek out those resources.

“They live here and in many cases have family living in the community or were housed here before becoming homeless,” Dillon said. “They are good people. We have to support them and the goals they set for themselves.”

Dillon said since people started complaining, terminal residents have made an effort to keep the area cleaner.

One of the barriers to integrating Northwest Side residents into housing programs is that the area does not have a dedicated social service provider.

LaPointe said the closest shelter is Franciscan Outreach, 2715 W. Harrison St.

“At the local level, people need to realize that there are not enough accommodation beds available in the city, so pushing people out of our area is just not humane or feasible,” said said LaPointe.

With no dedicated services, LaPointe said more temporary warming options are needed as temperatures drop.

These are good stopgap measures, but the northwest side needs a permanent heated shelter, according to LaPointe. She said another option could be a CTA mobile warming bus at the Jefferson Park terminal.
“CTA works closely with the city’s Department of Family and Support Services and its homeless outreach program, as well as their community partners – including Thresholds, Haymarket, Salvation Army and Featherfist – to provide homeless residents with accommodation and care options,” the CTA said. in the statement.

“These entities regularly carry out outreach activities to identify passengers who are constantly traveling and/or people who may need special services. In addition, as part of its pandemic initiatives, the city has focused more attention and resources on helping these residents – including the homeless – with services to meet their mental health needs,” the CTA said.


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