Monday, January 23, 2012

Uptown Shelter Featured On Front Page Of Tribune Today

"They had lived on the streets since they were 13, two men amid the roughly 1,700 homeless people who shun the city's shelters and instead survive on the margins — parks and underpasses, abandoned cars and cardboard boxes — places the twins call "out there."

Now the brothers have a home at Pathways Safe Haven, a place of last resort for the most desperate homeless. But the transition inside hasn't been easy."
Pathways Safe Haven is located at the former Leland Hotel (Leland and Racine), now owned by Heartland Alliance.  For the hardcore homeless, like Frank and Anthony Nowotnik, who are featured in the Tribune story, Pathways is a lifeline, literally.  After being thrown out of two previous shelters for drinking,
"...the pair crossed the threshold of Pathways, a program that is unusual in that it doesn't require residents to stop drinking or using drugs in order to live there. The approach is called "housing first," and it is critical, social workers say, when it comes to people like the twins who are in the grips of long-standing addiction and who, without such a program, would likely die on the streets."

[...]  Success here is measured in tiny steps — a switch from vodka to Irish Rose wine, or an appearance at a group therapy session. The requirements are few, on the theory that you can't force someone to stop drinking. But the twins say they are motivated, if only for the chance to stay inside.

You can read the entire story here. We found it a fascinating, bumpy story of how people who've been on the streets for 30 years are trying to change, doubts and all.


  1. Nice story. Refreshing.

    This corner (Leland & Racine) needs a TON of work though. I was walking to Fat Cat (8pm maybe?) a few weeks ago and was propositioned by a "lady of the night." My mistake was smiling and saying "hello" to a fellow Uptowner.What can I say, Chip was in a good mood. Lesson learned.

  2. Actually, that is not a shelter as stated in the title, but a residential treatment program. People who live there pay a portion of their rent.

  3. @chipdouglas-reminds me of the old line about Harry Carey on Rush street: "looking for a new "ball girl" or a girl to "play ball" (Not sure who said it though)

  4. Second that Chip. I use to live in the building next door. The few constants that were ALWAYS around, cigarette butts, people under the influence, people loitering, drinking on the public way and drug deals going down in plain sight during the day.

    This is no exaggeration. Although I feel for people that have fallen on hard times or who had idiot parents that taught ZERO life skills, I draw the line on people with problems that they can help themselves but chose not to all at the expense of public tax dollars.

    The list of things needing money in Chicago is longer than I care to list and alcoholics that have been kicked out of multiple shelters isn't one of them. Before you get your panties in a twist, yes I use to be an addict for 10 years, I smoked a pack a day and quit cold turkey 8 years ago NOT using tax dollars but my own free will.

    If someone can tell me that this assisted living building for addicts does not rely on any public funding, I recant my rant. What a private enterprise does with its money is its own business and I don't much care.

  5. I don't know a ton about the program. But I did attend an in-service that they sponsored a few years ago. At that time they spoke about Mayor Daley's mandate to end homelessness. They were trying to get the point across to the city pols that if you want to end homelessness you need to be more tolerant of people who use substances. As the article states most shelters won't allow intoxicated people in. In my opinion that is exactly why there will always be some who choose to remain homeless.

    My question at that time as well as now is: So if your clients are not allowed to use in your facility but you know they are using, where does that happen? Don't you as a program have any responsibility for the drug use/drug buying that goes on somewhere else in the neighborhood close to your facility? What about alcohol? Where are your clients drinking that Irish Rose?

    I understand better than most the extreme difficulty getting people who are homeless, for the reasons mentioned in the article, to learn life skills or coping skills. There are thousands of people in Chicago in a very similar situation. But how can a program like this expect the community to sit back and allow the program's clients to use everywhere else in the community except the program building? Some might see this kind of program as enabling the substance use. Clinically I just don't agree with it.

  6. Jesus people, why is everyone quick to say cut the public money for people in need!?

    How about the disgusting spending practices by the rest of our governement, the pay and pensions of our, and I use this term loosely, representatives?

    Where are you protesting military spending? Why aren't you saying less on war and wall street more on people and education!

    Do you know how much money our government wastes and gives away every day? Let me tell you, the amount they give to programs like this are a phucking drop in the bucket. A very very very LARGE bucket.

  7. Will P., all that info is reported to the gov't. How you get that info from the gov't, I'm not sure. Bottom line, this program saves the tax payers money. There will ALWAYS be people in society like these two who, for whatever reason, don't function that well in society and, for a lack of a better way to put it, will be a burden to the rest of us. To me what is important is dealing with that burden as humanely, effeciently, and inexpensively as possible. This program does that. If these two and others in that program were out on the streets instead of in that program, they would be costing tax payers a lot more money in ER visits, hospitalizations, arrests, and jailings. And Uptown, these people are not 'allowed' to buy drugs, drink openly in public, etc., any more than you and I are. If you see these two or anyone else drinking in public or buying drugs, do the right thing and call the police.

  8. Sean,

    Of course you are correct people will call police if they are buying or using in public. If those same people find out many of the offenders live at the same address, there is going to be a problem if a program operates that address. But maybe that does not often happen I don't really know.

    You may be correct in your point about reduced ER visits, or maybe not. Lots of homeless individuals in my experience avoid ER's for all the same reasons they end up homeless. You have to follow rules when you go there. As the article points out homeless individuals want their "freedom."

    But how can you maximize your treatment program when your clients are allowed to still use? Due to the fact that such a high % of substance abusers have serious mental health issues that require medication. How does that tx have a chance to be effective when the client is still continuing to self medicate? Research demonstrates over and over that it can't.

    Also physical aggression in treatment programs drops dramatically once you eliminate those who are actively using substances.

  9. These guys are part of the daily parade from 1207 W Leland to JJ Pepper's at Lawrence and Sheridan. They leave a trail of liquor bottles on the parkways and alleyways and feel comfortable relieving themselves in public.

    Click on the link on the original story to see pictures of them in action. They actually posed for the camera drinking booze out a black plastic bag. And this is progress?

  10. Thank you ChiTownPhilly! You are 100%correct.

  11. Uptown, I feel ya, it seems counter-intuitive not to punish people for using drugs and alcohol when what you want is for them to stop using. And I feel that is the correct way to look at it, programs like Pathways don't 'allow' people to use, they just don't punish them when they do. Look at these two bros, the other programs they were in took the more traditional, abstinence approach and kicked the bros back onto the streets when they came in under the influence. What good does that do? Okay, you can say it sends them the message that if they use, there will be consequences and they won't have a place to live. Fine. These guys have been on the streets for 30 years, I don't think they care that much about it. The thing is, sending the bros that message is also costing the rest of us more money in the long run. Numerous studies have shown that people with mental illness and people with subst. abuse issues cost the tax payers a lot more money when they are on the streets as opposed to supported housing. I guarantee you that the bro who was run over by the SUV while sleeping on the sidewalk, his hospital bills cost the tax payer way more than one year in the Pathways program would. These guys have been living this way for decades, you can't expect to move them into housing and tell them, okay, today is the day you stop drinking and then tomorrow were gonna get you a shave and haircut and the next day you're gonna get a job and stay on the straight an narrow from here on out, got it? I have known people who have gone through inpatient programs over 10 times and still couldn't stop using. It is simply cold hard stark reality that some people are just never gonna recover and stop using (even sticking them in jail or other locked institution is no guarantee they won't be able to use and it will cost the tax payer thousands more than a program like Pathways Home). And again, I think what is most important for the rest of us is to manage those people as humanely, effeciently, and inexpensively as possible. I'll give you another example, I worked in a homeless shelter on the west side. I had a guy that used heroine and twice a month he would get himself hospitalized just to get off the streets and have a warm bed and three hots. He didn't need to be hospitalized, but he knew exactly what to say to make sure they put him in the psych ward for a week or so and he admitted to me he did it just to get off the streets for awhile. The guy had gone through several treatment programs, couldn't or wouldn't stop using. He was easily costing the tax payers over $20,000 a month, every month. Got him into a program like Pathways and he didn't stop using for a long time (eventually did) but he did stop putting himself in the hospital - not even once the entire time he was there - and we the tax payers saved boatloads of money because of it.

    Another thought, people like these two bros, they are gonna take a long time to get them to change their ways. If you kick them out for coming in drunk, you are not going to be able to effect that change and they go back to square one, which is probably what has been going on for 30 years.

  12. I really liked this article and appreciate it being posted on Uptown Update. Thanks ChiTownPhilly and Sean for your comments; I agree that there always seems to be a lot of concern focused on these kinds of facilities "wasting" our tax dollars, but much less concern about the hundreds of other ways our money is being spent. Money put toward a place like Pathways would certainly come out of our pockets in a different, less productive way if the community decided to stop trying to care for these individuals.

  13. Right on ChiTownPhilly! You said it....

  14. I got mixed up with Thresholds for five years after a family tragedy and other agencies clients intermixed into the mess.
    I never saw ANYBODY get rehabilitated, I never saw ANYBODY get better, they just get set up on the freebie gravy train and continue to be parasites until they end up in jail or dead.
    Nothing is worse than being in an SRO constantly smelling weed smoke, having bored social workers coming around to tell you you're ungrateful for the desperate poverty they've set you up in, and never, ever having "real" friends outside the system.
    They should not be able to bill insurance or taxpayer dollars in any way, the industry as a whole is on par with astrology or voodoo, an alternative that is actually based on science and logic needs to be created.

  15. The problem with places like this and Threshold is that drug dealers are drawn to the places. Why? Its their clientele. Drug dealing leads to loitering, gangs, shootings, etc.

    I see Threshold people buy drugs, call the cops on them, but nothing changes. An untenable situation.

    Places like these are crime magnets. It just shifts the problem into a different location. These areas become permanent drug markets as a result.

    If you house people who are knowingly using illegal drugs, then isn't it just an outpatient jail?

    A jail without bars?

    Thats another place with a great drug trade. Jail.

  16. Thresholds gets their budget trimmed more and more with each passing year, but yet the supervisors and administrators grow more arrogant and just blame it on people being intolerant, rather than their own incompetence and self-righteousness, especially high-level staff at their community center in Lakeview.
    We are all just bad people for not understanding what they do, which goes in the face of everything I was taught as a child about being an adult.
    I demanded better care constantly and eventually I was just told I was ungrateful and I could show myself out, which I did. They will never see the error of their ways. They have some good people working there but just checked LInkedin, those good people will put in their time so they can be employed elsewhere while the bad, incompetent people rise up to the top of the heap.
    Either Obamacare or lawmakers will eventually drive places like this out of business in the next decade and things on the streets will be worse because no alternative has been created, and liberal policies since the 1960's allowed the proliferation of such criminals in the first place.
    It used to be shameful to get food stamps and assistance and you would hide it from your neighbors, now they write rap songs about it.