Monday, February 9, 2009

Update On Cornerstone From The Trenches

Uptown resident David Wengert writes in:

Since most UU readers do not line up at Cornerstone to get a bed at Epworth (at 5253 N. Kenmore), I thought I'd update you all on the management of their new overnight facility.

For one week, Cornerstone took the first 80 or so men who arrived at their doors on Clifton each day and provided them shelter for the night up at Epworth. After a week of this arrangement, Cornerstone established a group of regulars and refused to let anyone but this group spend the night. Individuals now arriving at Cornerstone for emergency shelter are turned away on the basis that they are not regulars. So let's see, that means the only emergency shelter options left are Pacific Garden Mission (human warehousing), Franciscan House (at serious risk of going under like Chicago Christian Industrial League and Bethel New Life) and the red line hotel. What's it going to be?

Cornerstone took the only emergency shelter on the Northside and replaced it with a transitional shelter model.

I thought when Cornerstone took over, they were supposed to run an emergency shelter.

See UU posting (Tribune story) from Jan 9, 2009

"Brady Harden, president of Inner Voice Inc., the non-profit that doles out more than $2 million in city funding to emergency-response centers for almost 1,000 beds, said Epworth church officials contacted him and said they wanted a new service provider to run the shelter."

What happened? Is anyone holding them accountable to provide the service they agreed to provide or can they basically do anything they want with this new project?


  1. Q: Is anyone holding them accountable to provide the service they agreed to provide...

    A: No.

    Tune in next time for more "Simple Answers to Dumb Questions", the game show where readers who think they live in a city whose government can be held accountable, find out they haven't got a prayer or a clue.

  2. Out of curiosity, who is the source for this story?

    Is it the former REST operators who got their ass booted?

  3. I'm going out on a limb here and guessing it's "Uptown resident David Wengert." Says so at the top of the post.

  4. "What happened? Is anyone holding them accountable to provide the service they agreed to provide or can they basically do anything they want with this new project?"

    My question to David Wengert: Did you contact Cornerstone and ask them this question in person? Reading between the lines, it seems like you have other issues with this organization and you're using the UU forum to make them look bad.

  5. Only 65 men are allowed into the shelter every night. When it is freezing out they let in maybe 70. So the 80 number is not or never has been correct.

    Did you know that there are no shelters or services west of Ashland?

    There is no line up system at Epworth, never was. They always got their approval at REST and now at JPusa and they walk over. JP was obligated to continue to house the men who had been going to Epworth prior to the switch to JP.

    Do they just toss out those men?

    Do they have the same 65 men every night? Of course not, statistically that dynamic would be difficult to substain. But yes they are taking care of the "regulars" what number that is I don't know, so I don't know how Wengert would be so profound with these statistics.

    The EBNA block club and Epworth have met with JP several times to make sure the orginal men were just not thrown out. This is all happening because JP is being monitored heavily by we, the neighbors who live next to the shelter. No one is refusing the men, any more then what has been happening for years.

    Nothing has changed there has always been less beds then men/women in need. Perhaps your just becoming aware of that or because of the economy there are more and there will be this summer.

    Thanks to one of the readers of this blog, (thanks deep throat) who contacted me last month we were able to nip alot of confusion and put in place rules.

    Lets say they took the 65 men your speaking of then what you would have seen is 65 more men hanging around your neighborhood. Same number, different faces.

    Technically the shelter is some of the men's home and is not as emergency as one would define, but this has never changed. This is a sad state of affairs. We are hoping that the more stable men can be housed somewhere, if you have any ideas let us know.

    I would recomment that all the alderman on the north side to prepare for this summer's tent city on the lake, saying one should just kick the men off the lake does not solve the situation.

    For now JP/Cornerstone/Inner Voice is doing their work properly. The blockclub has all their emails and is in contact with them immediately.

  6. Toto-

    I have to agree with you. The heart of Cornerstone is to give people shelter. Whoever wrote this had an agenda of making Cornertone look bad, even if they had to lie about it.

  7. I would agree kicking people out of the park is not the solution. The days of letting them stay in the park are also over. The 20th and 23rd Police Districts learned that when this was tolerated, high rates of drug dealing occurred. The drug sting "Operation Walk in the Park" drove home that lesson. It was another classic case of "Broken Windows" theory being validated again and again.

    The real solution involves creating incentives for the homeless to address the causes that led to their homelessness. We're headed in the direction of creating real change, but we're not there yet by any means. The city has been slow to realize that merely providing "3 hots & a cot" didn't solve the problem. Our resources are limited and should only be used for solutions that have a proven track record.

    One of the areas that will also need monitoring is ensuring that the men have incentives to be involved in case management to address some of the circumstances that led to their situation. We're fortunate that there's a process in place to monitor this with Ald. Mary Ann Smith. It's still not perfect by any means, but I remain hopeful.

  8. James wrote: "The real solution involves creating incentives for the homeless to address the causes that led to their homelessness."

    If that's true, James, then we need a motherlode of "incentive-creating and cause-addressing" that not only reaches Uptown's habitually down-and-out homeless population, but also the growing scores of newly destitute people and families across America.

  9. The homeless "census" showed a large increase for the Chicago area.

    Certainly the current economic climate has contributed to the increase in homelessness---especially for families---but there are many reasons for homelessness. I think perhaps James was alluding to people who experience chronic or cyclical homelessness and not really people who have recently plunged into a crisis.

    Having enough shelters and increasing affordable housing options is a city-wide issue. If nothing else, what is happening now should get everyone to agree that segregating these issues into one community area is NOT a viable plan. People need to be able to get some resources where they live and before their only alternative is moving into the park.

  10. Billie Joe, up until yesterday, I worked at the University of Chicago Medical Center, but I volunteered to be laid off because I was lucky enough to have a really good job prospect already waiting in the wings (hopefully). Others in my department have specialized degrees that would require them to move out of state to find another job. It was devastating for those who left and for those who stayed. So yes, I'm well aware of the economic issues that many of us are facing and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this job interview I had today works out well.

    It's sounding like you're not familiar with Uptown's homeless problem and the many homeless shelters in the area. Offhand, I can think of 8 shelters within a 1/2 mile of my home.

    If you speak with many Uptown social service providers , they will tell you that many of the homeless we see on the streets in Uptown are the chronically homeless. That particular group has always been small with regards to the number of overall homeless, but they get a disproportionate amount of resources. The idea is to use our resources wisely, so everything to help should be based on the use of best practices. Would you agree?

  11. Yes, it is 65 beds not 80. My mistake. Also, you're right, I do not particularly like Cornerstone, but that's not my motivation for getting to the bottom of this.

    As a case manager, I have been referring men to REST-Epworth-Emergency for a while now while they wait for a spot in the transitional shelter I work at. All of a sudden I start hearing that they've changed things up and my guys cannot stay at the new Cornerstone-Epworth-Emergency shelter.

    That's a problem. I agree all of these shelters should be spread out more, but the 48th ward has only 1 shelter the last time I counted, and that was Epworth. And the northside had only 1 emergency shelter last time I counted, and now my guys are told they can't go there.

    Used to be, you got into Epworth through a lottery at REST on Lawrence. When Cornerstone took over, for one week you could get into Epworth by standing in a line outside Cornerstone on Clifton Ave. Now, multiple guys have told me they couldn't get in because they weren't "regulars."

    An emergency shelter cannot have regulars, because everyone should have to go through the same process every night to get a bed. That's what makes it an emergency shelter. So what happened to the only northside emergency shelter?

    If I became homeless tomorrow, how would I get a bed at this supposed emergency shelter at Epworth?

  12. David,

    What are those white vans outside of Epworth every night for?

  13. David. I don't trust your opinion. You apparently hold animosity towards Cornerstone. You don't like Cornerstone plain and simple. That should be the beginning and end of your post. The economy is bad, more and more people are going to be homeless, and you can't house everyone.

    I think Cornerstone most likely, is trying to house as many as they can. If you have lived in UPTOWN for any period of time you will know that Cornerstone loves homeless people.

    But maybe you can convince me otherwise by getting your spy cam out. Make a video of Cornerstone kicking the homeless out on the streets.

  14. Aw shucks David if your homeless tomorrow we'll get you the penthouse foam mattress at Epworth. Your a case worker so you live this stuff. So your observations will be differnt from me.

    James is correct, whether we like it or not, there are men who are nomandics, they travel around our society on the fring.

    We can only be grateful for not being in that mental state.

    My limited understanding is that Cornerstone is trying to work with these men. They caught one man, who I mentioned to REST, who did nothing but check up on him and nothing more, CStone is getting this man into senior care, since he is 75 yo (!!!) and I was told he would have been on top of the list for placement. He had been coming to Epworth for YEARS. I didn't even bring him up to Cornerston, for now they appear to be proactive and not just making a living off the back of the homeless.

  15. Everyone is jumping on David's back, it seems, simply because he stated he doesn't like Cornerstone. Yet no one seems to be addressing the concern he has about men being turned away because they are not "regulars" there. While I know very little about Cornerstone or David it seems that this should be the issue to be addressed. If this is something David is currently experiencing as a case manager than it should be looked into. If no evidence can be found supporting these allegations than that should be stated. If the allegations are found to be true than the offending party should be reprimanded. That's all there was to this post and that's all that should have been commented on. Anything else is billyjoeian and should be discarded.
    We're dealing with human life here and no allegation of wrong doing should go away with no response.

  16. 1) No one is "picking" on David, its called responding.

    2) white van is a daily occurance, innervoice picks up willing men to go to other shelters when they are filled

    3) men don't make passes at girls who wear glasses

    4) did MIA have her baby?

  17. Went over to Cornerstone this morning to see if I'm as crazy as I felt after reading the "responses" here.

    One thing I learned supported my argument, one thing did not.

    On my side: They indeed are doing INTAKES to become MEMBERS before allowing someone to spend the night at Epworth. "How does someone do an intake?" Answer: "I don't think we're doing intakes right now." Doesn't sound like an emergency shelter for me.

    On the flip side: I was told that Innervoice continues to come by and take anyone who is not a member to a shelter on the westside of Chicago called the Hope Center and give them a bus pass to get home (this happened when REST ran the program, too).

    I don't care if the pope ran the shelter, we've lost the only emergency shelter on the Northside because the current model of management requires me, my brother, or my client to be a member.

    Next step: call MAS or HS?

  18. So is Cornerstone's homeless any less homeless than any other homeless person? I don't get it?

    I do know that the community asked cornerstone to confirm that sex offenders would not be housed at the shelter. If running a screen on people for sex offenders is part of the in-take process, I'm ok with that.

    The community did ask that Cornerstone provide quarterly updates on progress. They want some numbers that people are actually receiving services promised. This includes screening for health issues, referrals for programs like drug and alcohol treatment.

    Let's give Cornerstone a fair shake at operting this shelter.

    Besides, we've just come out of the coldest period of the year and all shelters are filled.

    David: When REST ran the shelter did they fulfill all your referrals?

    The Edgewater neighbors struggled over the issue of the shelter. The church had "landlord / tennant" issues with REST and REST abused their privledges. Epworth agreed to keeping the Shelter on site with a new operator. Cornerstone was chosen.

    I think the residents of Edgewater wanted something more than just a hot and a cot for these guys. They wanted to see real services and the hope that some will move on to a better life. And be stable.

  19. Toto you little yapper, right on. Come by Epworth and I'll let you pee on their lawn.


    I am a bit confused here so help me out...
    1) Excuse my simple mind but what does being a "member to the shelter" mean? "They indeed are doing INTAKES to become MEMBERS before allowing someone to spend the night at Epworth."

    2) Just what type of clients do you have that are not "being allowed?" If they criminal records forgetaboutit. Sorry but its a rule the neighborhood made.

    3) What differnce doe it make which homeless group they take? If you have been in this business for the time stated, clearly you would know that REST operated this shelter with the same men coming every night. so I am still not sure what is different. Did REST accept your clients? Please give an example of the difference.

    Are you sure your just reaching to make an issue of something that has been happening for 8 years? I don't mean that in a mean spirit, but I am not convinced that anything mysterious is happening.

    And David your not crazy, your just a social worker.

  20. Dorthy, you know why nothing grows on your parkway. Its meeee.