Friday, December 10, 2010

A Response From Sarah's Circle

On Monday, UU ran an item about Sarah's Circle's proposed SRO on Sheridan.  The Executive Director responded in the comments yesterday:
By responding to the concerns about the project Sarah’s Circle is undertaking at 4836 N. Sheridan Rd, I have the opportunity to present the facts about this project such that I can alleviate many of the concerns raised.

Sarah’s Circle has been serving women who are homeless or at risk of homelessness in the Uptown neighborhood for 32 years. While we provide comprehensive services, when women live on the streets or in shelters, our services can do only so much to eliminate homelessness. The answer to ending homelessness is permanent housing.

Our plans for the building located at 4836 N. Sheridan include 10 apartments of permanent housing with supportive services. Each apartment will have a kitchen and bathroom, plus there will be laundry facilities on each floor. This housing is permanent housing for women with a history of homelessness and a disability. This is not a SRO building in a traditional sense or a halfway house of any type. Each woman will hold a lease and have the responsibilities of tenants. Our goal is to keep the women housed permanently via supportive services provided on site.

Sarah’s Circle has been awarded two HUD grants which are the anchors to this development. These grants were awarded in a highly competitive process. Sarah’s Circle was chosen due to our excellent reputation for providing quality housing and services, our longevity in the field of serving women, and our capacity to leverage the project with other resources.

The funds used for this project will be federal dollars as well as private donations from individuals and foundations. No TIF monies will be used for this project.

Finally, with the services of Perkins + Will, we will design a facility that we believe will be a beautiful enhancement to the Sheridan streetscape. Perkins + Will is an internationally-renowned architecture firm that is providing 100% of the architectural services on a pro bono basis.

Concerns for the vitality and safety of our neighborhoods are obviously very legitimate concerns shared by all. We believe our goal of providing excellent, permanent housing for women who have historically been homeless is in alignment with a thriving, safe neighborhood. We look forward to being good neighbors.

Please feel free to contact me directly with any additional concerns you may have. My number is 773-728-1014.

Kathy Ragnar
Executive Director
Sarah’s Circle


  1. We have enough of these halfway houses in and around our Uptown area. Why do they insist of making Uptown their home instead of other neighborhoods. Maybe it is because the residents and alderman fight strongly to keep them out. Enough is a enough.

  2. what a great response.. I like when these places actually respond to community concerns instead of ignoring us...however, I'm tainted - I think she responded b/c she wants something from us, we have concerns about their current location and the loitering taking place there... why move it in front of the boys & girls club?

    I like that they responded, but like most, they will stop responding once they get what they want...

  3. Wow! Great letter!

    Not only is the project explained fully, but Ms. Ragnar took no offense, and even agreed with the previous, concerned post.

    Bona fides: I'm a lurker, and have my own "bad Helen" story, but this struck me as a good thing.

  4. Ok Ms. Ragnar since this will be build with our money could you please tell us what other properties did you explore before deciding on this location? Why do you feel this neighborhood is better suited to provide the means for these women to make it on their own than lets just say..Lakeview, rogers park etc?
    And lastly since you did respond to these cocerns why dont you just listen to the people when they tell you that they dont want another facility-however nice it might be-in this location and just go somewhere else?

  5. As a Clinical Social Worker who is often offended at what is called "Social Service" in the 46th, I was happy to read Kathy's response. She if nothing else seems to have a pretty good understanding of the reasonable concerns coming from the community. Using more TIF dollars, and creating more very temporary housing such as SRO's in the area will never work. I personally am less concerned with more permanent housing as long as it is managed well and there are structured expectations for anyone who is assessed to live there. If they don't meet them or after they move in fail to follow them then it is the responsibility of Kathy and her treatment team to ask them to leave. As long as that does happen and if there are further concerns she comes to CAPS meeting to address them head on what else can she do? "Going somewhere else" is not a great suggestion anymore than when Helen's staff says, "Move to Lincoln Park." If they own the property it is their right to develop it responsibly.

  6. I'm slammed, with no time to do anything buy scan but:

    >Thanks for monitoring the community's concerns and responding.

    >Being up front, communicative and as transparent is greatly appreciated.

  7. Granted, ten is a pretty small number but if you keep adding tens, eventually you get real big numbers. What will these ten be contributing to the neighborhood? Will they be bringing disposable income to benefit local businesses? Will they be paying property tax? Will they be removing a property from the tax rolls?

  8. Social Outreach Organizations aren’t some big regional conspiracy, Wiseguy; They form to respond to real problems in particular communities. In this case, Uptown has a disproportionally large population of homeless women, many of them displaced by domestic violence. People who oppose this project should offer a better idea of how to funnel Uptown’s disproportionately large population of homeless women back into productive society, and prostitution won’t count. Proactively helping these women leave the streets and enter the productive class, in the long term, addresses a very serious problem that the neighborhood must first overcome before this blog’s dreams of Pottery Barn renaissance can be realized.

  9. "gt," were you serious or joking when you posted this:
    "And lastly since you did respond to these cocerns why dont you just listen to the people when they tell you that they dont want another facility-however nice it might be-in this location and just go somewhere else?"

    if you were serious, did a few comments on UU really convince you that "the people" don't want this facility to be built?

  10. Why do they insist of making Uptown their home instead of other neighborhoods.

    They've been there for 32 years. They're not "making" Uptown their home, it IS their home.

    I know people who have worked for Sarah's Circle and the organization is pretty responsible and has helped changed a lot of lives.

  11. Tyler, leave the classist attitude at the door. When in doubt, play the class card, right? I'm sure Marc Kaplan and Saul Alinsky are patting you on your head, you good little student, you.

    I would say that a business, on a RETAIL CORRIDOR, might be a better use of that space than an SRO, no matter how well-intentioned the reason.

    Sarah's Circle is currently at Sheridan and Lawrence. You know, the white building with a bunch of people hanging out in front of it, drinking, loitering, yelling, at all hours? A great many of those women are clients of Sarah's Circle.

    I am concerned with how they manage their clientele. Has their track record earned them the right to expand? Can we look forward to the same scene in front of the housing? What will ensure proper oversight at 4836 when it hasn't happened at 4750? Is the location across the street from a school the best place for an SRO? Is a retail corridor the best place for housing women in transition?

    These are the questions I am looking for answers to.

  12. "ron durham". I dont know if you do but i dont post comments based on what others post on UU. I actually do-i dont know if you do-live in the neighborhood and i actually talk to the neighbors. And they would rather not have another halfway house at this location.I did not question wheather Sarah's is doing a good job. They probably and i hope they do.
    Again the point that i was trying to make was: what is it that makes Uptown out of all places more attractive for such ventures than other neighborhoods?

  13. The post talking about Uptown having a diproportionate number of homeless women is just so ridiculous. Why does Uptown have this "disproportionate" population? BECAUSE of the shelters, supportive housing, social services, etc. Do you think these people are FROM Uptown? Of course they aren't! They are imported, and most have tenures here shorter than your average "yuppie transplant" from Ohio.

  14. "This is not a SRO building in a traditional sense or a halfway house of any type. Each woman will hold a lease and have the responsibilities of tenants. Our goal is to keep the women housed permanently via supportive services provided on site."

    So what's the problem, then, UU?

  15. Tyler, the question of "what else would you do with them" isn't a valid one. No one is saying "this sounds like a horrible service"...what we ARE saying is "wow, this sounds like a great service that will help these people...but why does it need to be here when Uptown has already done more than its fair share of social service?".

  16. it is great that sarah's circle cared enough to respond with a letter expressing their intentions and their plans. i hope they understand that the skepticism is well placed considering the situation at lawrence and sheridan.

    their letter to this blog is more than what has happened in the past! i hope it is the beginning of a better dialogue between social service agencies and a sign of changing tone of politics in a post-Shiller era!

    that said, i hope "look[ing] forward to being good neighbors" and "responsibilities of tenants" also applies to [pro-active] management policies such as no loitering in front of the building and holding tenants responsible for legitimate/proven complaints filed by neighbors and neighborhood organizations. ms. Ragnar, with your much appreciated letter we now have it in writing and we will hold you to the ideas of being good neighbors with responsible tenants.

  17. I'm concerned about yet another non-tax-paying facility an a street that begs for revenue generating retail.

    Sarah's Circle is noble and necessary. I don't have issues with what they stand for and how long it's taken for them to help women in need. Kudos for all that donate and help them function.

    But I'd like to know if they looked anywhere else.

    Why must the tax-paying residents of Uptown pay for another non-taxpaying not-for-profit.

    Don't we have more than our fair share??

  18. Wow. I read the letter and thought it was fantastic. Bringing ten women who haven't had their fair chance off the streets into a program that fully supports their needs, sounds amazing to me. I can't believe some of the intolerant responses on here. Why do you live in Uptown if you have such a problem with social services? It is thriving with agencies and shelters to help those in need.

  19. I, for one, appreciate Ms. Ragnar's communication--and I hope that it's the first of many between the multitudes of diverse people and interests in our neighborhood as a new day dawns with a new alderman. Business as usual--a la Shiller--is going to change. Now let's make sure that we do the best we can to understand each other and to reach reasonable consensus.

    I also appreciate the facts brought forward by TrumanSquareNabr--that there are existing problems at an existing Sarah's Circle facility in the neighborhood, and that the problems have not been satisfactorily addressed. What we have to go by is what Sarah's Circle is already doing--and at first blush, it looks like Sarah's Circle has its work cut out for it to prove it won't duplicate the problems it hasn't fixed for the people and businesses that surround it. Ms. Ragnar, what ARE you doing about those problems? The onus is on you to explain and act.

    Finally, OMG "Becky", cut the crap. There are thousands in Uptown who "haven't had a fair chance to get off the streets", and a good portion of them repeatedly take advantage of a VERY tolerant community by pushing tolerance to the brink. And I'm tired of heifers like you tossing out that "Why do you live in Uptown if..." nonsense, as if we all have to put up with crime, public drinking, drug abuse, violence, and low standards in order to live in our neighborhood. If YOU don't like the idea of other neighborhoods taking on some of the socio-economic burdens and Uptown trying to improve itself, then why do YOU live here? This isn't going to be your University of Wisconsin or University of Chicago or People's Republic much longer, sweetie--get with the program, or move on. We're changing for the better.

  20. That part of Sheridan Road is not a retail corridor. It has a two or three flat residence right next to the proposed Sarah's Circle building, a condominium complex right next to that, a high rise across the street, and then another low rise to left of the proposed building. So I would hardly characterize that particular part of Sheridan Road as a retail corridor. Residential housing would not look out of place. I think it is important that the SC ED wrote to provide factual information about what this is, and it does not sound like an SRO or flop house to me. It sounds like a low-rise rental, but obviously for a very particular population that I think would be well-served.

    And Bear60640, why is Becky a heifer for pointing out that for quite a few decades now Uptown has been a beacon for lot of people in need--and that includes immigrants. Like it or not, that is one of the things that has given Uptown its uniquely diverse character. Very few class pictures in Chicago will show such an assortment of races and ethnicities in a class photo as will an Uptown photo. And I'm not trying to idealize Uptown, but this is not about low expectations, or wanting crime, etc. Just saying you need to respect, or at least have some understanding that you're moving into a place that has a very particular character, and some of it is not great, but a lot of it is pretty good. People wishing to make Uptown "up and coming" need to respect and build upon those things that make Uptown unique. This SC project seems like it is seeking to strike that balance by building in responsibility, and a sense of investment in the community by those who live there, in that this won't be some place to just pop in and out for a bed or a fix.

  21. I am proud to live in a community with organizations like Sarah's Circle, the good people who make it happen and the women they serve unselfishly.

    Happy Holidays everybody, in this season please remember the less fortunate and most vulnerable, in Uptown, Chicago, and the United States of America.

    Those of use who have never experienced the pain and fear of homelessness are the fortunate, not another "class" just fortunate.

    It has been said, kindly consider if you can,

    The free bird never knows,

    What the caged bird understands.


    Jeffrey Littleton

  22. Thanks for the info, UU. I've sent a donation to Sarah's Circle.

    And to Becky, UptownWriter, and Jeffrey -- thank you, too.

  23. Here's an image of the proposal from the architect's website:

  24. There is something similar to this at St. Alphonus Church's old convent at Wellington and Southport.

    Some folks rallied to stop it, but the Church and alderman prevailed in a community vote after lotsa hard work.

    You wouldn't know it was there unless someone told you.

    IF and itza big IF this place is run as well I see no problem with it being in Uptown.

    I would oppose any additional meth clinics, overnight shelters, or services designed to serve the severely mentally ill in Uptown. There are too many of those type of places concentrated here already and even when run well they still bring problems to a community.

    Hell, I'd trade every meth clinic in Uptown for one of these well run places any day.

    Dat's da fact, Jack.

  25. So you don't want to be around the homeless...... but you don't want to see them housed either? Sara's Circle is actually providing a solution to the problem, they should be applauded for their efforts.

  26. as alway im a little late on this post, first off, i love uptown, my grandfather took his family from an indian rez, to look for work, that was in the late 40's, everyone in uptown was the working poor, we all worked the day labor offices that line brawdway and wilson, i was just 14 when i stared, no one care about us native american, or the hillbillys, as now when i read these heartless coments, i ask why?

  27. tlp, there are a few bigots out there, but I would guess most of it is just plain compassion fatigue. Sarah's Circle is a wonderful program and there's no denying it. I believe the concern has always been about why is Uptown the designated place for the homeless while the other Northside neighborhoods do nada. We're not shouting "not in our backyard." It's already here. Clearly, other neighborhoods need to step up to the plate instead of assuming that good ole Uptown will take care of their problems for them.

  28. What does it matter to those who disagree with those with a good heart and good intentions of helping and being of service to others who are down and out. The fact is, no one deserves to be homeless, hungry, unclothed, denied medical attention or treated less than. Humans are so busy judging others and so very full of ego and pride it's sickening. Why can't people just get along and try to be a part of the solution instead of spreading the disease of hate and prejudice. Shame on those who think they are better than someone having difficult times. Think it could not happen to you... might want to think again.

  29. dcm0125, this all went way over your head. No one said any one group should be hated. No one said any one group did not deserve care. No one said any one group is worthless.

    It's reasonable to start wondering why Uptown should be designated the neighborhood to take care of a disproportionate number of people from other neighborhoods needing help.

    Your us versus them argument is very very old and lame.

  30. For the love of God!

    No more shelters, halfway house, SRO, meth clinics or social services in Uptown! Seriously people, the 60’s called, they want their stupid politics back. I’m done with being voted the “ward most likely to tolerate another shelter.”

    Yeah, I’m one of those anti-gang, anti-drug, anti-CHA and anti-crap homeowners. I want safe streets, quality housing and a place where people WITH jobs want to visit and live..

    “Uniquely diverse character” doesn’t mean people peeing in the street. Honestly, I’m tired of people with selective memories citing Uptown as “a place that has a very particular character” meaning poor and grimy. Character does not always equal poverty.

    Uptown was once a hopping and exciting place to live long before the discovery of the healing powers of Methadone. We could do a lot worse than turn into Andersonville

    Honestly, I pray for the day I have to complain about parking, because there are too many people shopping on Sheridan, or the day they tear down the old Polo Loco and put up something that someone without a WIC card cares to go to. I want Lawrence House and Somerset Place turned into market rate rentals. And I will personally pay for the movers that transport the last banger out of the Voice of The People.

    Sarah's Circle I'm sure, serves a valid need. But unless they also bring a retail tenant that's not a wig shop, nail salon or cell phone store, it's another weight on the wrong side of the social scale.

    Tar and feather me, burn me in effigy, picket me and pillory me, but the days of the People’s Republic of Uptown are numbered.