Tuesday, March 12, 2013

"More Food Than We Know What To Do With"

As anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis or watches the local news can tell you, March roared into Uptown like a lion.  Accusations were made and tempers grew short as homeless advocates and the Salvation Army squared off against 46th Ward Ald. James Cappleman.

It all happened after a meeting between the alderman and the Army, during which he asked that the S.A.'s Mobile Feeding Truck continue to provide services and outreach to the chronic homeless who sleep in the park and under the viaducts of Lake Shore Drive in Uptown, and also asked that they refrain from feeding the hardcore homeless at that location.

Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown has done a series of articles condemning the alderman as heartless and ignorant about social issues ("dangerous" was his description, to be precise).  Occupy Rogers Park and assorted sympathizers held a rally at the alderman's office last on Wednesday, chanting "Hands Off The Homeless!" and carrying signs accusing the alderman of wanting those living rough to die of starvation.

We're sure that they will be relieved to find out that the homeless themselves don't want the Salvation Army's food.  In fact, they have plenty of food, so much that they feed the wildlife in the park with the extra.  From Mark Brown's latest column (and at this point, we think he should just move to Uptown, since he's spending so much time here):
And then there’s the food: the church lady who comes from the suburbs every Sunday with a home-cooked meal; the Chinese restaurant owner who drops off his leftovers late at night, and lots and lots of McDonald’s hamburgers, so many burgers in fact, owing to the restaurant’s nearby location, that the people under the viaduct pine for a Kentucky Fried Chicken to open in the neighborhood.

“We’ve got more food than we know what to do with,” says Tamara “Tami” Walsh, who has been on the streets for 19 months since losing her home in Channahon. [...]  In the category of strange but true, the viaduct dwellers say they don’t really need food from the Salvation Army’s mobile soup kitchen, which stops just yards away every weekday.
According to Brown, what do the homeless tell him they really want?  Services.  Housing. Help.
With all the other donated food, most told me they don’t eat the free soup, although they do avail themselves of the assistance of the Salvation Army social workers who accompany the food truck and try to solve other problems for them, including the biggest one — finding housing.
So it all comes full circle.
  • The Salvation Army wants to provide relief and outreach, but insists that its soup is its "calling card" and that it must offer it to entice the homeless to come to their truck to meet the social workers.
  • The alderman wants them to provide relief and outreach, but without providing food.
  • The chronic homeless who spoke with Mark Brown say they don't want or need the Salvation Army's soup, but do want their services, and help finding housing.
Seems like everyone is on the same page (at least they're reading from the same chapter), and that there's more common ground than differences.  No one's a monster.  Everyone wants the same thing: to get the people out of the viaduct and into the social service system, and safe, clean, permanent housing.

Time for everyone to hold hands, sing a couple choruses of Kumbaya, and start figuring out a way to work together to achieve that goal.


  1. Did you actually read the whole article?

  2. I went by yesterday when the Salvation Army truck was there on Wilson.. and saw the City of Chicago Social Services van there as well, with their folks speaking with the homeless living under the viaduct. None of them were moving or seemed to be accepting the offers of help.

  3. Cappleman said the food from the food truck was ATTRACTING the homeless. This article days it is not in so many words so?

    Has all of this been worth the damage to the aldermans reputation in and outside of city Hall?

  4. In 2003, Mayor Daley set a goal to end homelessness in Chicago by 2012.

    << source: http://www.chicagohomeless.org/programs-campaigns/advocacy-public-policy/10-year-plan-to-end-homelessness-in-chicago/ >>

    Homeless people “will always be here because this is where they can get [free] stuff. This is where people will help you [ie. give free stuff]. [And if Mark Brown and other activists have their way] The alderman ain’t going to be able to change that,”

  5. Mark Brown called the Alderman "dangerous and aggressive" because he didn't want the SA truck feeding the homeless under the viaduct. Now he's admitted that the homeless don't want the food. Is Mark Brown issuing an apology to the Alderman? I mean, at least that could salvage some of his reputation, whatever is left after his opinionated and incorrect articles.

  6. Doesn't the Nigh Ministry provide soup also? I know they give HIV tests and clean needles.

  7. When can we expect an apology from Mark Brown? Keep up the great work Alderman!

  8. I don't think the Alderman's reputation was damaged at all. He has the support of his constituency.

    I think UU is right. Amen to the Kumbaya.

  9. Has all of this been worth the damage to the aldermans reputation in and outside of city Hall?

    1 - If you have proof of how the alderman's reputation is being, or has been, damaged - it'd be nice for you to present for review.

    Otherwise, kudos for understanding Rule 11; but, demerits on execution.

    2 - How in the world could this alderman's reputation be any worse than that of his predecessor?

  10. The truly important question here is not whether Cappleman's or Brown's respective reputations have been damaged. The real question is when does the Sonic open?

    Perhaps Mark Brown can come back then, if the Sun Times is still in existence, and see if the Wilson viaduct homeless have seen a change in where people buy them food from.

    There are stories out there that the newish owners of the Sun Times are looking to buy the Tribune. If so the Sun Times would likely disappear like a McDonalds cheeseburger wrapper on a windy Uptown day.

    I suspect Brown would survive in the consolidation and perhaps replace Kass who's angling for a talk radio gig better suited to his meager talents.

  11. What I would like to know is why Mark Brown and the protestors caught in the Shiller time-warp think it is *UPTOWN's* special responsibility to welcome all the region's homeless with open arms every time--even from *Channahon*?!? I don't remember signing a lease back twenty years ago that required my neighborhood and my neighborhood's taxes to accomodate and pay for every homeless Tom, Dick, and Harry from every conceivable suburb simply because Brown doesn't want them stinkin' up his precious Oak Park.

  12. There are lot of issues going on here. One that I see, is that there will always be homeless people who choose to live outdoors. Now I know there will be many that will come down on me on that statement, but here's what I am basing it on.

    There are lot of city services and private services available to the poor and needy. (We can discuss as to whether there is enough of these services at a later time.)

    Many homeless people claim, they won't live in a shelter. Yes living in a shelter is not always the best, but it generally is for a homeless person the ground floor to getting back up on their feet.

    Once in a shelter, you can avail oneself to a whole host of other services.

    One thing all these programs have in common are rules. I'm sure the outreachworkers for the different agencies come upon homeless that refuse the offer of shelter and services because the homeless person doesn't want to stop drinking, doesn't want to stop the drug habit, doesn't want to get up in the morning when the shelter says they have to get up, nor do they want to be in by 8:00 p.m. or 9:00 p.m. when the shelter says they have to be inside.

    Many of these organizations and shelters do fantastic work helping people get jobs, get work clothing, get food stamps, get housing subsidies, etc. And many of these folks that have successfully gotten out of the spiral of homelessness have followed some kind of program.

    How does one get a homeless person who does not want to solve their problems within a framework of rules setforth by the different not for profits or the city's own outreach services?

    I don't think you can.

    A lot of the angst over the homeless at Wilson and Lakeshore Drive is really over a few dozen people who on any given day refuse services that are there for them.

    How much more can we help? For many of these homeless people in the park, having a few bottles of rot gut wine is more important than being sober and having a warm place to sleep, even if it is a shelter. And having to follow rules of a shelter, means eventually if you move towards better housing, you have to follow more rules too. Like paying the rent, being respectful of your co-tenants and not destroying the landlord's property.

    Can we help the homeless? Yes we can, but only if they want to help themselves.

  13. Toto, it is a complex situation. I don't view it as there will always be people who refuse shelter. Instead, there will always be people and organizations that will enable them to not want to venture out and get help.

    Motivation for many of us is to avoid pain. I go to work on days I want to stay home because I don't want to experience the pain of getting fired. For them, they live under the viaduct because they don't want to face their real enemy which is their addiction.

    If their goal is to avoid pain, then the question is whether or not our efforts are furthering their desires to avoid pain or to face the real enemy which is their addiction. Given their continued addiction, I have to wonder if we're helping them to avoid facing their real enemy.

  14. Arrest them and put them in jail. This would not be tolerated if they were camping under the Oak Street underpass or Fullerton or even Belmont. It is an illegal activity. If they are offered help and refuse, then they are breaking the law. I should not have to deal with their crap, both literally and figuratively, because they don't want to give up drugs or alcohol.

    Why a small, vocal minority here feel that Uptown should put up with this when other neighborhoods don't and wouldn't is beyond me. I suppose they have a financial interest in keeping the status quo so their funding is not cut. I have rights too...

  15. The issue started out as, "What to about chronic homeless and service providers who do not meet best practice standards in their attempt to service them?"

    Then another issue arose: the media's and activists' total lack of respect for the Uptown community in how they attempt to make their point.

    As they say in Rome:
    "Chi rispetta sara rispettato." i.e.
    "Respect others and you will be respected."