Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ald. Smith Needs Your Input Regarding Homeless Shelters, Ald. Shiller Remains Silent

Update: A reader alerted us to this interactive map that shows where homeless shelters are in Chicago and what types are allocated to each particular neighborhood. Make sure to select all types of shelters on the right side in the legend.

To: 48th Ward Residents
From: Alderman Mary Ann Smith, 48th Ward
Re: Closing of homeless shelters

Dear Neighbor,

Your input and suggestions are needed with respect to a concern to our
community. The issue is homeless shelters.

Last year, Breakthrough Urban Ministries moved 30 overnight beds from the 5200
block of Ashland to the west side of the City. This summer, the Tom Seay Center
in Uptown (1000 block of Sunnyside) was closed because they lacked appropriate
zoning, resulting in a loss of 95 beds. This November 1st, the R.E.S.T. shelter
on Kenmore will close, removing another 55 beds. The only one of these shelters
in the 48th Ward is R.E.S.T. The closure is the result of ongoing financial and
management concerns.

We have been assured that the city has the capacity to move people, on a daily
basis, from gathering points to existing shelter beds. These beds also provide
counseling, treatment and other services that have never been provided through
R.E.S.T. Others argue, however, that the homeless won’t go, preferring the
outdoor cold to the danger of new locations, leading to both an increasing
impact of homeless encampment in our streets, alleys and parks, and the eventual
possibility of sickness and of freezing to death. This argument, in turn, speaks
to the necessity of a new permanent or temporary shelter location in our area.

We are a ward and community that makes decisions together – trying to listen,
talk, argue and then decide. We try to balance compassion and practicality. We
need to do that now. If you have practical suggestions or ideas about how you
can help, we would like to put them into the community conversation. Time is
short. We will discuss this at the next Z&P meeting, October 29th at 7:30. You
can e-mail us at info@MASmith48.org or write us at Mary Ann Smith, 5533 N.
Broadway, Chicago, IL 60640. Practically speaking, we need your input before
this meeting, by Friday, October 24th.

Please share this request with your block club, condominium association,
neighbors and community.


Alderman Mary Ann Smith,
48th Ward


  1. How novel...an alderman soliciting input from her constituants.

  2. No need to communicate when she keeps successfully "getting out the vote." We gotta stop that moron.

  3. "This summer, the Tom Seay Center
    in Uptown (1000 block of Sunnyside) was closed because they lacked appropriate
    zoning, ... "

    I've never heard of this - a business of any kind being shut down because of zoning.

    I've never heard of Chicago zoning inspector going out in the field and seeing what is actually happening

    How did they get their business license in the 1st place if it were improper zoning?

    and if the zoning had been changed subsequent to getting their license, they then would have been grand-father in as a pre-existing non-conforming use, you can't shut a busines down by changing zoning

    does any one know anything more about this?


  4. I was wondering the same thing, Hugh. The Medill article said SA was closing the shelter to expand their ministies and use vans. What this zoning all about? Does M.A. Smith have the right facts? I am sure if they had zoning issues, Shiller would have taken care of them right away.

    Maybe that's why the zoning for the McJunkin is trying to get changed to add "more types of business" - i.e. shelter beds...

  5. "We are a ward and community that makes decisions together"

    I can't get my head around this concept.

  6. This is a classic example of how I've never been able to figure out politicians. We clearly need more shelter space, but Helen hasn't made a case to the community. All she needs to do is point out how many beds the area has lost, and the need for shelter space to take up the slack. If she is trying to secure more beds for the homeless, don't be sneaky about it. With the loss of the above shelters, we clearly need to adjust. I don't advocate adding a 500 bed homeless hotel, but we should have the space to keep the people already here off the street and get the services they need.

  7. allenpg - is it really a good idea to just open another shelter in Uptown? We already have the most shelter beds on the northside - and some of which are poorly managed. How about having another ward on the northside take up the slack? I know - that will never happen - but we can't just keep warehousing people exclusively in Uptown. Helen a lot of people feel this way, so she will try to sneak whatever she can in without asking anyone for input (unlike Mary Ann Smith).

  8. Dear Ms. Smith,

    Your input and suggestions are needed with respect to a concern to our community. The issues are misappropriation of TIF funds, illegally amended Redevelopment Agreements and homeless shelters.

    Of utmost concern among these issues is the upcoming referendum which will be on the ballots of residents of some wards. This referendum asks constituents their opinion on allocating up to 40% of TIF funds for affordable housing. Those in the know realize TIF's are a temporary financial stimulus to aid in commercial development for future tax growth in areas where there is little or none. Therefore, allocating TIF funds to finance affordable housing would be an obvious misappropriation and detrimental to the health of certain areas of your community, those in the 48th AND 46th Wards on the border they share. These areas are already suffering under the weight of an ever increasing, or at the very least, prevalently increasing population of homelessness, lack of businesses and insufficient social services including police to support the vices that invariably, and unfortunately, prey on the poor. A referendum by no means implies a change in law, however this could set a precedent for politicians with immoral and unethical intentions. Since some in the 48th could be potentially impacted by such a change in law, we deserve the right to be heard.

    With this I raise the related issue of the Wilson Yard Development. While the site lies well within the 46th Ward, we in the 48th who will be impacted are concerned and require your representation. It is less than 1/4 mile away, that's a 5 minute walk.

    This month, Alderman Schiller illegally placed a proposed amendment in front of the Committee on Finance in City Counsel. It was illegal due to the lack of notice required by law for such a proposed amendment. You may be further disturbed by the apparent lack of understanding, or even any knowledge at all, of said amendment by members of the Committee as described by my fellow caring citizens and featured on this website. The amendment passed. The City of Chicago no longer has the right to stop payment if the developer violates key terms of the Redevelopment Agreement. I realize this reduces the risk to investors thus making the project more attractive. However, perhaps these investors see this business model as a failing one, as many of us do. Some on this website have calculated the average cost of these units at $470,000. Where a generous estimate of the average cost of a condominium in uptown is $250,000, this hardly seems like a sound investment. It certainly doesn't meet the requirements of a TIF development, there is no commercial component. No retailer has confirmed. Every retailer previously involved with the project has backed out.

    Furthermore, the residential component has gone from its original concept of mixed income housing to %100 low, or worse, income housing. Congregating this many new impoverished families in an area already collapsing under its own weight of social inadequacy hardly seems like a good social model either. We already know the shortfalls of amassing vast numbers of the poor in small areas. They become easy prey for social predators like drug dealers and gang bangers. It therefore seems irresponsible to repeat our past mistakes, some of which define Chicago's infamy. We don't want to be known as the Cabrini Green of the North. It's the resultant violence that spills in the street that those against this development fear, to be clear, we are not anti-poor as some are quick to label us.

    As a tax payer and therefore investor in this development, I demand all further progress on it is halted immediately pending a re-evaluation of the Agreement as it stands today.

    In a time of unhampered and immeasurable political corruption these issues are ever-more important. More important, however, is the fight against these blatant social injustices. We in the 48th have no legal voice in the 46th. But you do.

    In your letter, you ask for the help of your community. That must include part of those Wards which border the 48th. Communities, much like drug dealers and gang bangers, don't simply stop at political boundaries. Aldermen have the reputation of staying out of the businesses of other wards. As a result, everything gets approved. Case in point: the aforementioned amendment.

    I believe you are a good Alderman, Ms. Smith, the results are all around. The contrasting shortfalls of the 46th Ward at Sheridan and Kenmore at Sunnyside, Wilson and Lawrence ironically place you in an even better light. So I look to you to lead. Given the reputation of Chicago's Aldermen, the current financial crisis, and the on-going political corruption I look to you to speak out. Your voice will be heard. Be the first to say, any development within 1/4 mile to my Ward will have to go through me. That would be an unbiased policy. You could set a standard. Make waves Ms. Smith.

    Your Neighbor

  9. I know I've railed on the "Grammar Police" before, but when it comes to names, I'm a bit more of a stickler.

    For the record, there is no 'C' in Shiller. I've seen it spelled incorrectly more and more on posts and in emails that have been forwarded my way.

  10. Confused
    maybe folks are trying to get the attention of Helen by spelling her name wrong, it worked on you!

  11. huh? R.E.S.T. at 941 W. Lawrence is not on the map nor is their women's shelter at the Uptown Baptists Church.

  12. Did you select all types of shelters in the top right of the legend (or show all)?

  13. The Chicago Alliance to End Homelessness has a 10-year plan that involves eliminating overnight shelters and placing more resources toward transitional, interim, and permanent housing for people who are homeless or at risk for homelessness. As City funding dries up for overnight shelters, funding increases for transitional and interim shelters that will lead the homeless into living stabilized lives in permanent housing.

    If we remain committed to the use of best practices in addressing the needs of the homeless, then overnight shelters will no longer be for those resistant to services. Instead, overnight shelters will have homeless people staying in them for 1 or 2 days, and then a quick transfer to more permanent housing with wrap-around services. This plan has worked well to create real and dramatic change for the chronically homeless in other parts of the country and there’s no reason why it can’t work well in Chicago. I just ask that we seek a balance in everything we do… we should not have too little or too many services for any one group in any one area.

  14. I'm not sure I ever realized the comparative concentration of homeless shelters in Uptown till I saw that map! Wow, what an eye opener.

  15. Smith's office is pretty good to responding about problems like this. I wrote to her about a homeless problem in an alley near where i live, received a response a day later, and then an unsolicited follow-up email a few days later. The problem was address and partically resolved in about a week (OK, the homeless guys are sneaking back but it's not as prevalent, although the cold weather may have something to do with it). I was fairly impressed with her.

  16. Keep the homeless shelters out of Uptown. As a resident and condo owner, their presence decreases property value by the minute. Also, residents and visitors feel uneasy around them. The Uptown area could be great if their wasn't so many homeless people and peddlers begging people for change.

  17. The Carmen Winona Board's response to the letter:

    History of the Homeless problem in our neighborhood:

    We had a major homeless problem in our neighborhood over 5 years ago. At one time we counted over 160 people living in the park around Margate Park Field House and in the park in front t of Weis Hospital. They had brought mattresses, barbeques and furniture into the park to live. They would drink, use drugs, have sex, urinate and defecate in the park. The men were also harassing many people as they went through the park. No one was doing anything about this. Not the police, not Mary Ann, not the Park District… no one. We formed a committee and went to meet with varies groups that deal with the homeless situation. We met with the Alderman’s office, The City of Chicago Department of Health and Human Services, The Salvation Army, Inspiration CafĂ© and several social workers that deal with the homeless. What we found out was that:

    · Most, but not all, of the homeless in the park are the chronic homeless. They have chronic drug and alcohol addiction problems and chronic mental health issue. Most of these people chose to live in the parks and not in shelters because they are not allowed to drink and use drugs in the shelters, they cannot have sex in the shelters, and they must abide by the rules of the shelters. The idea that the shelters are dangerous is a cover by most of the chronic homeless.

    · The Alderman’s office kept saying that most of these people are from our neighborhood, our former neighbors. What we found out from the City of Chicago and the other groups was that the majority of the homeless are not from our community but were either brought here by the Cook County Sheriff’s Department and other organization and dropped off at one of the shelter, which they did not use, or they came to Uptown to take advantage of the lawless situation in the park. In other words, our community was used a dumping ground.

    · It took 6 months of hard work by the block clubs in our community to resolve the problem... during which time, in my opinion, Mary Ann was not very helpful. Go to our web site, www.carmenwinona.org and hit “news” and go to the bottom of the page and read the letters under “Initiatives Related to the Lakefront” for the complete history of the homeless problem we had and how we worked to solve it.

    Issue with Mary Ann’s Letter:

    · The short time period is unacceptable. To ask the community to make a decision in a weeks time is a method Alderman Smith uses to try to force community groups to act in favor of what Mary Ann’s wants.. She is trying to force the issue on the communities. We propose that a vote of any kind take place at the next Z and P meeting.

    · All of REST’s shelters are in Uptown. Two currently operate at 941 West Lawrence at the Peoples Church and a second one operates at The Uptown Baptists Church at Sheridan and Wilson. In Uptown there are at least 6-8 homeless shelters operating. If another shelter is opened to replace the two lost it must be north of Foster. Concentrating the homeless problem in one area only concentrates the problems for the and about the homeless in one area… problems we all have had to deal with in the past.

    · Shelters are not the answer. Permanent housing with drug, alcohol counseling and job training is the answer. When is Mary Ann, Mayor Daley and the City of Chicago going to actually address the problem and not keep putting a bandage on the problem … homeless shelters.

    · Lastly, there are homeless men,women and children that do need help now. So shelters unfortunately still are needed because the city has not done its job. But where these shelters are located is a matter for thoughtful discussion and not a rushed to solution.

  18. I think they changed the deadline for input. I got this email from the Alderman:

    If you have practical suggestions or ideas about how you can help, we would like to put them into the community conversation. We will discuss this at the next Z&P meeting, October 29th at 7:30. You can e-mail us at info@MASmith48.org or write us at Mary Ann Smith, 5533 N. Broadway, Chicago, IL 60640. Although the time is short, we would appreciate your input by Monday, October 27.

  19. I am a condo owner in the area and have live here for 25 years. I have seen our area go from bad to worse thanks to Schiller. I feel uptown has far to many homeless and more gangs and undesried people then I can ever recall. Walk down Wilson at 8PM If you dare. Its time we vote her out of office and get a alderman that will clean uptown up and make it healthy and safe as it once was. It is a disgrace to have my friends come to visit and see people that use the sidewalks as a bathroom. Why don`t Shiller who likes them so much have low income housing built on her block and let all of them sleep in front of her condo..........

  20. Though I am supportive of providing opportunity to those who find themselves in need, I do not agree with adding additional shelters in the 48th Ward. My comments are directed to a specific item. As part of this issue, there is a proposal to convert the recently decommissioned firehouse at Hollywood and Ridge into a R.E.S.T. shelter. The firehouse and a ‘tiny’ island of commercial buildings are located in a vast pool of residential homes. This proposal is ABSOLUTELY UNACCEPTABLE.

    Labeling it as “Temporary” is often a political ruse. Temporary can easily be converted to permanent if the opposition is not gathering enough public press. Neither temporary or permanent is tolerable.

    R.E.S.T. has lost its recent shelters due to the inability secure funding and mismanagement. Even if we supported a new shelter in the Ward, why would we allow a mismanaged group to continue poor execution of the program?

    In recent years the immediate surrounding neighborhood of Hollywood and Ridge has had a large influx of families with young children and a drive to more affluent home owners and businesses. There exists minimal homeless in the immediate area.

    It is documented that unfortunately these shelters often carry with it an increase in crime and stagnation or decrease in property value in the area. It is not clearly stated (and I have not confirmed), but it appears this may be a men’s shelter which can quickly amplify the risk factors in an area with many little children. Even if it is determined not be a men’s shelter, it does not change the negative impact from the shelter to the area. With the recent economy, we don’t need another card playing against our hand. I do not doubt that the many of the people who utilize these shelters are good people, but the degree of negative impact is too great a risk for our neighborhood, economy and children.

    If Alderman Mary Ann Smith feels so dedicated to opening a homeless shelter, she should move to have one of the open spaces next to her office to house this project. And to be clear, no, I don’t agree with this either as it is only two blocks away from the firehouse, but at least Broadway is true commercial street and not a sudo one in a residential one. Again, the 48th Ward does not need another shelter.

    I have never voiced an opinion on these matters, but two outcomes will occur and should define my stance and resolve further:
    1) Alderman Mary Ann Smith will ensure the proposed Hollywood and Ridge shelter will not move forward, and do her best to make sure another does not open within the Ward (we have enough already in the 48th). She will gain both supporters and advocates by many within her Ward.
    2) Alderman Mary Ann Smith will not stop the Hollywood and Ridge shelter from opening. Crime will increase in the area, property value will be negatively impacted (along with the 48th Ward’s tax base). I, along with a notable percentage of her constituents, will immediately contribute significant resources to ensure we have a new representative in the alderman office at the earliest opportunity.

  21. Take it from us in the 46th Ward, you do not want any shelter run by REST. Honestly, I would rather have one run by Cornerstone than REST and that's not saying much.