Sunday, March 3, 2013

Alderman Cappleman’s Statement In Response To Salvation Army Mobile Food Truck

"First off, I’m disappointed that I’m writing this statement in response to what I hoped would be a productive meeting with the Salvation Army Mobile Food Truck Unit.  But they decided to storm out of a meeting instead of working with me and my office on new approaches to assist those who are chronically homeless who live in parks and under the viaducts.

I also want to clear up the misconception that anyone would go hungry without Salvation Army Mobile Food Unit.  Near where the Salvation Army Mobile Food Truck provides meals there are at least six soup kitchens in the 46th Ward that provide meals seven days a week multiple times a day.  This complete list is always available in my office to anyone in need of it.

If the mobile food truck unit decides to move on and provide their services in another part of the city, one of my staff will make sure anyone who has been relying on this truck for meals will have this listing of places where they can receive meals and will know where the closest shelter and soup kitchen are.  No one should ever have to be worried about where his or her next meal will be.

I first approached the Salvation Army Mobile Food Unit after a few months of my late-night homeless outreach in the lakefront parks.  I was concerned that the Mobile Food truck was providing a disincentive to those in need to receive sustained help.  Our homeless outreach consists of members of my staff, representatives from the Dept. of Family & Support Services, Streets & Sanitation, the police, a representative from Alderman Osterman’s office, and me traveling to the park from 2AM to approximately 3:30AM to offer in-person services to those who live there to see what they need to help improve their quality of life and get them into a shelter and eventually into permanent housing.  One of my staff spends about 50 percent of his time serving those in need and can point to at least four people we have helped get off the street.  One couple is now in permanent housing and is employed and still comes into our office on a weekly basis to say thank you.

While we were seeing success stories and improvements in quality of life for those in need, we still had persistent chronic homelessness that was centralized in the area near where the Salvation Army Mobile Food Truck provided services.  I went to the truck one day last year to have a conversation with their staff and hear their thoughts.  They told me to reach out to their boss, Captain Nancy Powers.

I called Captain Powers to hear her thoughts on chronic homelessness and see if there was a way we could work together to combat this problem.  I asked what their outcomes were and the information she gave me made it necessary for further discussion.  That is when I asked for an in-person meeting.  After four months of trying to get a meeting arranged, we were finally able to schedule a meeting for this past Friday, but unfortunately without Captain Powers.

When I raised concerns about chronic issues under the viaduct, they wouldn’t provide information that their efforts had a noticeable impact.  When I pointed to other social services in the ward that have provided numbers and outcomes of their success, the Salvation Army staff were still not able to respond.  After years of the mobile food truck taking one approach without being able to document success, I asked if they could explore other options and different approaches to help get people on the streets into shelter.  At this point, they stormed out of my office and said they would take their services where they were wanted.

I tried to work with them, but they refused.  Obviously now Captain Powers has changed her mind and has decided to work with us again which I honestly hope is the case.  I do believe their hearts are in the right place, but I will continue to challenge the status quo and will continue to strive to end homelessness and hope they will work with me to that end.

My number one priority has always been safety and quality of life.  Everyone deserves a clean bed and safe place to live.  Everyone deserves an opportunity to get back on his or her feet and get to feel the pride of being able to take care of one’s self.  Everyone deserves the feeling of comfort in knowing where their next meal is coming from and not to have to worry about going hungry.  Those are my priorities.

I also want to acknowledge just a few of the many social services in the 46th Ward that are doing good work and providing needed services:
  • The Salvation Army Evangeline Booth Lodge, one of the best-run family shelters in the Midwest.
  • Northside Housing, which provides shelter, supportive housing, and day support services to help stabilize people’s lives.
  • Lift Chicago, which provides mentoring and support to help people find full employment.
  • Heartland Health Outreach, an organization where I have personally walked clients over to get needed medical and mental health care.
  • Inspiration Corporation, for the respectful way they engage their clients to assist them with setting goals for themselves.
When I am asked about my expectations from social services, my response is as follows:
  • Their services need to be done in a manner that respects the client.
  • Their interventions should be done in a manner that empowers clients to change their lives for the better.
  • Their interventions should produce performance outcome measures within a reasonable timeframe.
I look forward to working with Captain Nancy Powers and Salvation Army on where we can together combat chronic homelessness and provide better quality of life for those in need."

Update:  Mark Brown's latest column on this.  Salvation Army will keep feeding Uptown’s poor, despite alderman


  1. Extremely well written-- I truly appreciate all the hard work that Alderman Cappleman and his team are putting into this neighborhood.

  2. Goddamit,

    I just posted that in a comment.

    Taking away my google mojo are you?

    Drats, foiled agin'.

  3. No, IP, got it in a press release. ;-)

  4. Thppppt.

    I found it on the Capplemaniacs twitter account.

    "Press release. We ain't got no press releases. We don't need no press releases. I don't have to show you any stinkin' press release."

  5. Thanks Alderman! You're a good man! Too bad you have to explain yourself but you have our support any day

  6. I continue to be very proud of our Alderman. James, keep up the good work

  7. Shame on the Sun-Times, Mark Brown and the Salvation Army.

  8. No one likes change, or being told what they do may not be the best solution, when they see themselves as helping.

    I APPRECIATE the amount of time our Alderman and his staff are putting into the problems in the ward, AND that they apply a business sense of quantifiable results of these efforts. I am ELATED that they are working within the Community, availing themselves of the available resources to effect REAL change.

    Throwing money at a problem isn't a solution. Offering a REAL solution is a solution.

  9. I wish one of those cupcake trucks would come to the ward as much as the these crappy free food trucks did.

    Cupcakes with buttercream frosting are good.

  10. I am genuinely confused about the role/authority of the office of the alderman. Is there a precedent for the alderman's office to make a unilateral judgement on the efficacy of a social service and require that they change their programs? Or was he simply making a request more or less as a citizen or someone at the level of a business owner? Anyone know?

  11. Thanks Alderman Cappleman. Your efforts are greatly appreciated. Hoping Salvation Army will work to be a good neighbor and listen to an alternative way of approaching this diifficult issue.

  12. Everyone seems to be working to each other's benefits. If the trucks were non-disruptive in the past and present, why are they disruptive now? I didn't know there were 6 food kitchens in the area, that's a LOT, so no one needs to go hungry. I can also appreciate the Alderman trying to turn the area around so that it's not a slum.
    Now he just needs to go after the slum landlords and slum buildings. Slowly but surely.

  13. He is by far the most educated, responsible alderman a ward like ours could ever ask for!!!

    I didn't vote for Cappleman the first or second time he ran, but over the past year not only will I vote for him (early and often) I would love to help his campaign.

  14. Why exactly is it that the Salvation Army can't validate what it is they say they think they are doing?

    There is a fine line between giving someone a bowl of soup and actually helping a homeless person get their life together.

    It makes sense to ask the Salvation to prove that they are having the impact that they think they are. Obviously just driving up to where the homeless people are and giving them a bowl of soup isn't going to do it.

    How about this compromise: Salvation Army sets up away from the disgusting underpasses/parks and homeless people just follow the signs for free food. This way for free soup.

  15. I think the only outcomes or impact the Salvation Army has to report here is that people came to them hungry and left feeling full. That's it.

  16. It's called program evaluation, and I'm sure the Salvation army has an idea about what it is. I'd be curious to see what they have on their food truck program.

  17. There are many people who believe that the Alderman is surveying the homeless, but not serving them. Can a list of outreach services and number of people served by the Alderman be provided? I do believe that meal trucks overcome certain barriers to location-based meal programs. They are foundational throughout the country.

  18. I wonder if the Salvation Army would still want to keep serving these homeless if they knew they were gay, being that they have a stance against the gay lifestyle.

    I just can believe how all these folks are so against the alderman cleaning up this neighborhood that is obviously in need of some cleansing.

    Maybe all these folks should start opening their own doors and let the homeless become their roommates instead of just bashing the alderman for his approach in handling such matter.