WBEZ | homeless http://www.wbez.org/tags/homeless Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en How a 12-year-old survived after an 80-year prison sentence http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/how-12-year-old-survived-after-80-year-prison-sentence-112266 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/scorp.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>Rodney Lewis and Evan Johnson first met at an organization that works with homeless people.</p><p>It&rsquo;s called Inspiration Corporation.</p><p>In this week&#39;s StoryCorps, Evan asks Rodney about his life story, beginning with his childhood.</p><p>Rodney says his parents didn&#39;t want anything to do with him, so his uncle took him in when he was young.</p><p><em>StoryCorps&rsquo; mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to share, record and preserve their stories. These excerpts, edited by </em>WBEZ<em>, present some of our favorites from the current visit, as well as from previous trips.</em></p></p> Fri, 26 Jun 2015 15:22:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/how-12-year-old-survived-after-80-year-prison-sentence-112266 Mumford and Sons' concert displaces homeless http://www.wbez.org/sections/lifestyle/mumford-and-sons-concert-displaces-homeless-112222 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/row-of-orange-.jpg" style="float: right; height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="(WBEZ/Melissa Muto)" /></div><p dir="ltr">Advocates say a delayed outdoor rock concert in Chicago&rsquo;s Uptown neighborhood has created uncertainty about if and when a homeless encampment can return to the area.</p><p><strong>One woman&#39;s journey from under the bridge and back:</strong><iframe frameborder="no" height="20" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/212139049&amp;color=ff5500&amp;inverse=false&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_user=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p dir="ltr">For months now, a line of nearly 20 tents in orange and blue have lined both sides of Wilson Avenue under the Lake Shore Drive bridge. That&rsquo;s where about 40 homeless people have been living and had formed a makeshift community. There was a similar encampment under the Lawrence Avenue viaduct. Each person or family had an unofficial space, surrounding their tents with belongings including wheeled carts, camping chairs and even a full-sized grill that some of the men took turns cooking on.</p><p dir="ltr">But all of that changed earlier this week in advance of a Mumford and Sons concert that is expected to draw thousands to nearby Montrose Beach. Originally scheduled for Wednesday, the concert was postponed until Friday.</p><p dir="ltr">On Tuesday, city workers ordered the homeless people to leave so they could clean the area. The workers also threw away many of the people&rsquo;s belongings, including blankets and clothing, in what advocates call a violation of city policy.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;You know, it&rsquo;s like we&rsquo;re not people, like our stuff doesn&rsquo;t matter,&rdquo; said a homeless woman named Susan, who declined to give her last name. &ldquo;We&rsquo;ve got nowhere to go. We&rsquo;re just trying to live.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://llnw.wbez.org/insert-images/G-truck-and-red-sign_0.jpg" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/G-truck-and-red-sign_0.jpg" style="float: left; height: 377px; width: 620px;" title="(WBEZ/Melissa Muto)" /></a></div></div><p dir="ltr">Susan said she was devastated about losing her blankets: &ldquo;They&rsquo;re even expensive at the secondhand store when they&rsquo;re half-off. It gets cold out here &mdash; we were freezing in May.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Clearing out a viaduct under a bridge isn&rsquo;t unusual: The city routinely asks people who are homeless to leave for short periods of time so they can clean the area.</p><p dir="ltr">But advocates say it was different this time. They charge the city violated its own policy for handling the personal property of the homeless.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;There&rsquo;s an <a href="http://www.chicagohomeless.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/City-Policy-and-Procedures-Governing-Off-Street-Cleaning.pdf">agreement</a> that before property&rsquo;s thrown out, people should get notice if there&rsquo;s a problem with the property and have time to do something with the property,&rdquo;said Patricia Nix-Hodes, an attorney for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. &ldquo;That didn&rsquo;t happen.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Workers put up a sign saying the cleanup would start at 10 a.m. Tuesday. Instead, a team of ten city workers arrived in a van around 9. They said they were following city orders to clean the area and were instructed to throw out anything in their way. Some bags, carts, and boxes were still under the viaduct.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Marcus-Cart-CU.jpg" style="height: 400px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="(WBEZ/Melissa Muto)" /></div><p dir="ltr">Rene Heybach, another attorney for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, said she told the workers they were early for the cleanup and to stop what they were doing. They reportedly refused.</p><p dir="ltr">She said she told them they were in violation of the city agreement. But Heybach said that none of the workers she spoke to Tuesday had been properly trained in that protocol, and none of them, including the supervisor, had even heard of it.</p><p dir="ltr">The supervisor on the ground did order her staff to weed whack and cut the lawn first to give people more time to remove their things.</p><p dir="ltr">But Heybach said the city&rsquo;s approach to clearing the area this week was disorganized and confusing. She said they created an emergency situation and added undue stress while not offering any help for the situation.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Everyone is saying different things, they are not coordinating,&rdquo; said Heybach, &ldquo;Everyone&rsquo;s been confused and remains confused.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Susan, the homeless woman who lost her blankets in the cleaning, said workers put up signs with Tuesday&rsquo;s date for the street cleaning. But she said they told her a day earlier that she had to leave, and that she&rsquo;d only have to leave for a day.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;They changed their story, they are trying to get us messed up so we lose all our stuff,&rdquo; Susan said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s like we&rsquo;re not people, like we don&rsquo;t exist.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Susan, who said she struggles with anxiety, PTSD, neuropathy and other medical conditions, was a single parent and ran a daycare before becoming homeless.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It&rsquo;s embarrassing that life can get this low,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re not bad people, we&rsquo;re just homeless.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/from-hill-USE.jpg" style="float: left; height: 470px; width: 620px;" title="(WBEZ/Melissa Muto)" /></div><p dir="ltr">Attorney Rene Heybach said the Department of Family and Support Services was supposed to help transport some of the homeless people and their items to a nearby safe location. The city agreement says the DFSS &ldquo;will lead the City&rsquo;s contact with homeless persons during the cleanings.&rdquo; &nbsp;But she said DFSS didn&rsquo;t arrive until after the other city crews were already there and clearing the area.</p><p dir="ltr">DFSS spokesman Matt Smith said the department&rsquo;s team is trained in the procedure for handling homeless people&rsquo;s belongings, which includes notification so there&rsquo;s &ldquo;ample time to prepare and remove their possessions from the area being cleaned.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">He said this cleaning was different than routine monthly ones because multiple other city services were involved. The size of the concert also made it necessary for people living under the bridge to leave the area for a longer time period. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Smith said the show is expected to draw thousands and will bring a lot of foot traffic there. He said having tents and people blocking the sidewalks would present a health and public safety issue.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;What I believe we are going to be doing is taking tents or possessions or anything that shouldn&rsquo;t be here &hellip; and taking them to a shelter and inventorying them,&rdquo; Smith said. &ldquo;If they want to reclaim those items later, they can make arrangements with our staff to do so.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">But by the time DFSS arrived, workers from other departments had cleaned out all but a few items remaining beneath the viaduct.</p><p dir="ltr">DFSS encouraged people to sign up for a system that determines eligibility for supportive housing. The Salvation Army showed up to offer their services too. But Smith said even though people were offered shelter, the city can&rsquo;t force them to take it.</p><p dir="ltr">Susan says she was abused in a local homeless shelter, and doesn&rsquo;t want to go back.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Latia-Sleeping-2.jpg" style="float: right; height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="(WBEZ/Melissa Muto)" /></div><p dir="ltr">People who&rsquo;d been living under the bridge spent Tuesday spreading their remaining belongings on the grass and over benches at a nearby park to dry out from a rainstorm. Some did go to shelters, while others found temporary housing with family.</p><p dir="ltr">But several of them have spent the week sleeping in the open on blankets and mats. They said DFSS had found them temporary storage for their stuff at a nearby CVS.</p><p dir="ltr">Susan had planned to join them in the park, but said she was afraid to sleep out in the open like that. She found temporary shelter across town instead.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t want to just lay on the ground on top of blankets, I&rsquo;m a woman, I need privacy,&rdquo; Susan said. &ldquo;Every other woman (who lives) down there has a man, or husband or someone to protect them. I don&rsquo;t.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">But like many of the others, Susan plans to return to her spot under the bridge as soon as she can.</p><p>It&rsquo;s unclear when, or if, that will happen. Thursday, a representative from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless said she had not heard back from the city on whether the homeless people could return after the concert.</p><p><em>Melissa Muto is a WBEZ Pritzker Journalism Fellow.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 19 Jun 2015 13:56:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/lifestyle/mumford-and-sons-concert-displaces-homeless-112222 Morning Shift: Bloodshot Records turns 20 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-01-09/morning-shift-bloodshot-records-turns-20-111367 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Langford.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The venerable label that launched artists classified as &quot;insurgent country&quot; has been releasing records for two decades. We talk to founders Nan Warshaw and Rob Miller about its history-and future. And we learn about the supporters and detractors of the Obama Library bid on Chicago&#39;s South Side.</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-128/embed?header=false&amp;border=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-128.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-128" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Bloodshot Records turns 20" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Fri, 09 Jan 2015 08:17:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-01-09/morning-shift-bloodshot-records-turns-20-111367 Families make up a growing number of the homeless population http://www.wbez.org/news/families-make-growing-number-homeless-population-111225 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/homeless families.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-9324213e-3e84-1716-850d-2137f1c8207c">The people we see at an underpass might be the most visible among the homeless population in Chicago. But families make up a major part of the count, and they often go unnoticed.</p><p dir="ltr">If you saw Marilyn Escoe, you might just see a single mother to four. A few years ago, she was providing for her family on a tight budget, but things spiraled when her mom got sick. Her mother moved into her house and Escoe became her caretaker.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;My mom, she started getting sicker. That didn&rsquo;t leave me enough time to keep up with my job duties,&rdquo; she said.</p><p dir="ltr">Escoe lost her job and fell behind on rent. She thought staying with a friend would be a burden and that moving into a homeless shelter would put the responsibility on her. So she made the tough decision to put her mother in the hospital and move the kids to a shelter.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I thought about the sense of privacy. I thought about how would my children react with other children,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Escoe and her kids slept on bunk beds in a dorm-style space with other families.</p><p dir="ltr">What was supposed to be a four-month stay, turned into two years.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The twins, they actually started their puberty at the shelter. I said, &ldquo;wow,&rdquo; if anything else can&rsquo;t happen, this had to happen,&rdquo; she said.</p><p dir="ltr">Escoe&rsquo;s mother passed away during that time, and her oldest daughter had to step up when Escoe got a part-time job.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I couldn&rsquo;t be able to transport them to school. So at 12 years old, she was taking her three siblings back to the West Side to school. So it was like an hour and half away from the shelter,&rdquo; she said.</p><p dir="ltr">Escoe&rsquo;s story isn&rsquo;t uncommon. The city&rsquo;s most recent count recorded a general homeless population of 6,294, relatively unchanged from the previous year. But there was a 7 percent increase in sheltered families with children.</p><p dir="ltr">Providers like the Primo Center for Women and Children felt that uptick firsthand.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;There are so many families we turn away because we don&rsquo;t have the beds,&rdquo; said Christine Achre, CEO of the center.</p><p dir="ltr">This shelter has wraparound services, things like child care and counseling. Unlike many facilities in the city, families share apartment-style units. There are 111 beds here, and Achre says 30 families are using all of them.</p><p dir="ltr">Over the years, Achre has seen intact families and single fathers with their kids. The most typical configuration is a mother and at least one child. Achre says one of the greatest predictors of adult homelessness is if a mother&rsquo;s experienced residential instability in her youth.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It&rsquo;s really important that if we&rsquo;re going to break the cycle of homelessness, that we need to nurture our families more and give more priority to family homelessness,&rdquo; she said.</p><p dir="ltr">The city&rsquo;s Department of Family and Support Services has a $43 million homelessness program. It&rsquo;s a mix of funding from the federal government, the state, the city and some private donors.</p><p dir="ltr">John Pfeiffer with DFSS says poverty is a complex problem that takes many agencies working together.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;When there is a failure in one system or if someone&rsquo;s had a bad experience in one of those systems, or multiple systems it can result ultimately in homelessness. So we&rsquo;re always trying to look back up the chain and try to see what policy changes can be made to prevent further homelessness,&rdquo; he said.</p><p dir="ltr">Pfeiffer says beds were available for all families in need this year, whether that was at a shelter or an overflow site. He says the city&rsquo;s been maintaining its services for all subsets, and it&rsquo;s aligned itself with a federal initiative to end veteran homelessness in 2015.</p><p dir="ltr">Julie Dworkin with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless says while those efforts are good, it can turn attention away from other groups. For example, she says, a previous push to end chronic homelessness came with the idea that it would free up resources for others.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Where the resources are getting saved are emergency room visits, jails. Other systems are saving money because these folks aren&rsquo;t accessing them. But it doesn&rsquo;t create any more money in the homeless service system,&rdquo; she said.</p><p dir="ltr">Dworkin says families make up more than half the city&rsquo;s homeless population. The coalition&rsquo;s annual count estimates 138,575 people were homeless between June 2013 and June 2014. That&rsquo;s 22 times the city&rsquo;s count. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The main difference is the city uses standards from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the coalition uses the definition from the Department of Education. Basically, the coalition counts people living temporarily with a friend or relative, and the city doesn&rsquo;t.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;If you say these folks who are doubled up aren&rsquo;t homeless, they&rsquo;re eventually going to end up in the shelter system. That&rsquo;s the most common pattern, (is) when the families come in and you say &lsquo;why are you here?&rsquo; They say it was because of a dispute. Those situations break down,&rdquo; she said.</p><p dir="ltr">Dworkin says there&rsquo;s been little change to the city&rsquo;s budget line item for the homeless over the years.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;So whether it&rsquo;s a good budget time or bad budget time, it sort of stays stagnant. So it&rsquo;s a matter of priorities,&rdquo; she said.</p><p dir="ltr">These days things are looking up for Marilyn Escoe. She and her children live in a subsidized apartment in Rogers Park. She just finished a culinary program and works part time at the homeless facility that once sheltered her.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I was once in those shoes and I had shelter. Some people don&rsquo;t even have shelter. It could&rsquo;ve still been me out there,&rdquo; she said.</p><p dir="ltr">The city says it&rsquo;s adding new beds in 2015. It hopes with an increase in the minimum wage and more available affordable housing, those extra beds will be just that, extra.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Susie An covers business for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/soosieon">@soosieon</a></em></p></p> Fri, 12 Dec 2014 06:39:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/families-make-growing-number-homeless-population-111225 Scrapping for metal in the bitter cold http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/scrapping-metal-bitter-cold-109591 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/coldman2.PNG" style="height: 460px; width: 620px;" title="Ulysses Bonilla travels by bike to look for scrap metal even on the coldest winter days. (WBEZ/Linda Paul)" /></div><p>On the day I met Ulysses Bonilla the thermometer had dipped to negative three, snow blanketed the ground, and the wind was whipping in every direction.<br /><br />I&rsquo;d come to this Chicago underpass looking for a guy I know who stays here.<br /><br />Ulysses was here because this is where he takes his short smoke breaks. Mostly he smokes discarded cigarette butts he finds on the sidewalk, but on a splurge day he actually buys cigarettes.<br /><br />It&rsquo;s a break from a routine he follows daily&mdash;rain or sleet, intense heat or severe cold. With a nylon-topped kiddie trailer lassoed to a bike, he makes his way around the alleys of Chicago collecting recyclables, including house wire, steel pipes, copper, and aluminum.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/coldman.PNG" style="height: 221px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="Chicagoan Ulysses Bonilla (WBEZ/Linda Paul)" />On a typical day he starts at 6 a.m. During his 10-hour work day he&rsquo;ll traverse 20 to 25 miles, roughly from North Avenue to Irving Park Road and Sheridan Road west to Kedzie. On a really good day his collection efforts may net him $30 to $40 at a recycling center or &ldquo;junkyard&rdquo; as he calls them.</div><p>The frigid day of our chance encounter, he&rsquo;d been at it three hours and figured his haul was worth maybe $13 or $14.<br /><br />In our little conversation he tells me about his life, where he sleeps at night, and about a business he dreams of starting ... you can hear that hope in the audio, above.<br /><br />When he wakes up in the morning, Bonilla never knows what &ldquo;junk&rdquo; he&rsquo;ll find or how much money he&rsquo;ll have at the end of the day. His biggest fear, he says, is uncertainty.</p></p> Tue, 28 Jan 2014 15:57:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/scrapping-metal-bitter-cold-109591 Counting Chicago's homeless population http://www.wbez.org/news/counting-chicagos-homeless-population-109565 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Homeless Count.JPG" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-5f6d8a96-c168-7a2a-13eb-449f7ac171c3">On one of the coldest nights of the year, the City of Chicago set out to count its homeless population.</p><p>It took hundreds of people to carry out <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/fss/provdrs/emerg/alerts/2013/dec/chicago-s-2014-point-in-time-homeless-count.html">Wednesday&rsquo;s survey.</a> Shelters did their own headcount, police covered abandoned buildings, the Chicago Housing Authority checked its closed properties and volunteers fanned out across the city, riding public transportation, and checking the streets.</p><p>The volunteers get a list of survey questions. If people don&#39;t want to talk, the volunteers are instructed to guess their approximate age and race, and mark them on a tally sheet.</p><p>The group I am with went to Lower Wacker Drive. They found a couple huddled together, underneath blankets at least a foot deep. The woman in the couple turned her back and burrowed deeper into her blankets while the man sat up.</p><p>A volunteer introduced herself and started the survey.</p><p>&ldquo;Is this your first time being homeless?&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;In and out,&rdquo; he said, &ldquo;Working, and so forth. And then back homeless again.&rdquo;</p><p>The questions are mostly yes or no. But some people told us extra details, like what sort of jobs they pick up during the day and what religious beliefs they hold.</p><p>&ldquo;Any kids?&rdquo; the volunteer asked.</p><p>One man said his kids are in college. &ldquo;They are out of town,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;But they love me, you know.&rdquo;</p><p>The volunteer asked the couple if they wanted to go to a shelter.</p><p>&ldquo;This is my lady right here,&rdquo; the man said, &ldquo;we&rsquo;ve been together 12 years. And we do it together.&rdquo; He said he worries they would be separated by gender in a shelter.</p><p>We left Lower Wacker and drove slowly along the streets, still looking. We found a shack constructed next to the highway, and inside we heard people fighting. The volunteers called out the questions, but the people inside screamed at us to go away.</p><p>The count is not perfect, as people can be missed. But coordinators say it is a useful tool. Last year,<a href="http://www.thechicagoalliance.org/documents/Plan%202.0%20Progress%20Report%208-13.pdf"> this count found 6,276 people who were homeless</a>. That is down from the previous survey in 2011. The city said because of economic conditions the expect an <a href="http://www.usmayors.org/pressreleases/uploads/2013/1210-report-HH.pdf">overall rise in people without stable housing</a>. But chronic homelessness-- people who stay out in the streets, sometimes for years-- those numbers are down.</p><p>Coordinators said the cold can be good for the survey, because people are more likely to go to a shelter, where they are easier to count. The temperature hovered around zero and earlier in the night, there was a report of a man found frozen to death in Logan Square. Back in the car, some volunteers wondered why people aren&rsquo;t going to shelters.</p><p>&ldquo;I know that there is Catholic Charities, there&rsquo;s other relief services, there&rsquo;s Heartland - there are other people,&rdquo; one volunteer said. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s why it&rsquo;s hard for me to understand why they&rsquo;re doing what they&rsquo;re doing.&rdquo;</p><p>An advocate explained that people consider their space on the street a home. One volunteer mentioned a couple she met earlier: &ldquo;She had a dustpan and a broom. And she was sweeping the debris to keep the rats away, keep the area clean. And I remember him saying, &lsquo;yeah, she does this because this one of the few places that we&rsquo;re able to stay. And we don&rsquo;t want to create a situation where they would make us leave.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Around 2 am we headed back. The job was done. But after hours of scanning the streets, it is hard to stop. Our eyes became use to staring down the alley, looking beneath underpasses-- trying to make sure we see who is there.</p><p>Taking a moment to notice, to take count.</p><p><em>Shannon Heffernan is a WBEZ web producer. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/shannon_h">@shannon_h</a></em></p></p> Thu, 23 Jan 2014 17:20:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/counting-chicagos-homeless-population-109565 Uptown man raised alarm on viaduct evictions before death http://www.wbez.org/news/uptown-man-raised-alarm-viaduct-evictions-death-106287 <p><p dir="ltr"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/homeless1.jpg" style="height: 167px; width: 250px; margin: 5px; float: left;" title="Jack King slept under the viaduct at Wilson Avenue in Uptown. Before he died, he told WBEZ that city officials targeted him and other homeless there with arbitrary evictions. (WBEZ/Odette Yousef)" />Just a few weeks ago, Chicago&rsquo;s Uptown neighborhood lit up with debate over whether it should maintain services for the homeless as it has for several decades. In particular, 46th Ward Ald. James Cappleman and the Salvation Army disagreed over whether the charity organization should continue distributing free meals every day from its mobile food unit at Wilson Avenue and Marine Drive. The two sides say they have since patched over their differences.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.wbez.org/voices-salvation-army-food-truck-clients-uptown-debate-105945">WBEZ interviewed some clients of the food truck</a> while the issue was hot. One of them was &ldquo;Jack,&rdquo; who declined to share his last name but said he slept under the Wilson Avenue viaduct. &ldquo;Not everybody has jobs out here, so it does help. It helps a lot,&rdquo; Jack said, adding that he appeared at the truck almost every day.</p><p dir="ltr">Well, in a piece that ran over the weekend in the Sun-Times, columnist Mark Brown focused on <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/news/brown/19042742-452/homeless-evicted-from-viaduct.html">arbitrary evictions of the homeless </a>who sleep under the Wilson Ave viaduct. In it, Brown mentions the death of one of those men, a Jack King, who had left the viaduct some days earlier because of the street sweeps. King was found dead March 13 outside a health clinic on Wilson Avenue.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/homeless2.jpg" style="margin: 5px; float: right; height: 188px; width: 250px;" title="King was one of many homeless who slept under the viaduct at Wilson Avenue and Lake Shore Drive. He said police took his belongings when they evicted him and others. (WBEZ/Odette Yousef)" /></p><p dir="ltr">WBEZ has confirmed that this is the same &ldquo;Jack&rdquo; we interviewed just six days before his death. During that interview, which we include here without edits, King vented frustration at treatment he said he received at the hands of police for staying under the viaduct. &ldquo;They took my blankets, rugs I had laid out,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Maybe they get brownie points for that, I don&rsquo;t know.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">King said he felt the hostilities began once Cappleman came to office. &ldquo;He don&rsquo;t particularly care too much about us,&rdquo; Jack said. &ldquo;He&rsquo;s trying to kick people out of here and there, and you can only chase a person that has nowhere to go so far. There&rsquo;s got to be something, you know?&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">In an emailed response to WBEZ about King&rsquo;s assertion that the evictions heated up under Cappleman&rsquo;s watch, Cappleman wrote:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Since taking office, I&#39;ve encouraged the Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS) to check on the individuals living under the viaduct and in the parks on a regular basis. I&#39;ve organized regular outreach missions where staff from my office and the 48th ward office, DFSS, and I walk through the park together in the early morning to talk to these individuals to see if we could encourage them to come indoors and take advantage of the programs and services the shelters provide. We&#39;ve successfully found housing and employment for quite a few of these folks. The gentleman who died is sadly probably not the only person we&#39;ve lost from problems with drinking and other drugs. If this gentleman had taken advantage of the programs and services available to him he may still be here today. He&#39;s the reason why I encourage DFSS to continue to check on these individuals. Everyone deserves a warm bed a safe place to live.&quot;</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Homeless3.jpg" style="margin: 5px; height: 188px; width: 250px; float: left;" title="Permanent signs at the Wilson Ave. viaduct give notice that the city regularly cleans the area. In particular, Streets and Sanitation employees will discard furniture that homeless may set up there. (WBEZ/Odette Yousef)" />King told WBEZ that he didn&rsquo;t receive meals from other agencies in the Uptown area because many of them required enrollment in a full-service program to help the homeless. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s a lot of circumstances I don&rsquo;t want to go into, [but] some people don&rsquo;t qualify,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I happen to be one of them.&rdquo; One of King&rsquo;s friends who sleeps under the viaduct, Gregory Guest, told WBEZ that King had an alcohol addiction.</p><p dir="ltr">According to the Cook County Medical Examiner&rsquo;s Office, King was discovered outside a health clinic at 855 W. Wilson Ave., not far from the viaduct. His cause of death was hypertension and arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her at <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a>.</em></p><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Tue, 26 Mar 2013 10:37:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/uptown-man-raised-alarm-viaduct-evictions-death-106287 A Forest Park vet struggles to keep others out of homelessness http://www.wbez.org/news/forest-park-vet-struggles-keep-others-out-homelessness-105502 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F79127553&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>When I met Homer Bizzle in his tiny food pantry in west suburban Forest Park, the lights were off.</p><p>Even though the pantry, called America Cares Too, had been open all day, Bizzle said the darkness was typical.</p><p>&ldquo;We just trying to conserve lights, cause, non-profit, you know,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Bizzle started the service project for vets and their families in 2011 after leaving the Army Reserves. He&rsquo;s been running the project on volunteer labor and financing it with small donations and cash out of his own paycheck.</p><p>&ldquo;I just wanted to give back to my fellow veterans and their families,&rdquo; Bizzle said.</p><p>By day, the 33-year-old native of the Austin neighborhood is an advocate for people with disabilities. In the evenings, he heads over to the his spare storefront on W. Harrison St. to meet up with the vets who come here seeking support.</p><p><strong>The battle at home</strong></p><p>In his State of the Union address Tuesday, President Obama announced that 34,000 troops will be home from Afghanistan by this time next year. That&rsquo;s a little over half the remaining troops in what most consider America&rsquo;s longest war.</p><p>But when they get here, many military vets face new, even longer battles - battles with trauma and homelessness. Many come home with mental or physical disabilities, and all come home to a slouching economy. Unemployment among veterans is higher than the national average, and <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/discrimination-against-our-countrys-heroes-103510" target="_blank">veteran status itself can be a stigma in a job search</a>. One in three men living on the streets is a veteran (although <a href="http://www.usich.gov/resources/uploads/asset_library/USICH-_Report_to_Congress_on_Homeless_Veterans.pdf" target="_blank">those numbers have declined in recent years</a>). And a recent study estimates that 22 vets commit suicide every day in the U.S.</p><p>All of this is familiar to Bizzle.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS7008_009-scr.JPG" style="float: right; height: 169px; width: 320px;" title="The America Cares Too storefront in Forest Park (WBEZ/Lewis Wallace)" /></p><p>&ldquo;Some of them suffer from PTSD, some anxiety, some have flash backs, shell shock...&rdquo; Bizzle said of the vets he serves.</p><p>While the VA does offer mental health services, Bizzle said traumatized vets who don&rsquo;t feel they can trust the government aren&rsquo;t left with many options.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s kinda hard for a soldier that&rsquo;s coming off active duty to get those kinda treatments in the civilian world because everything costs money, unfortunately,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>He believes the best solutions can come from veterans themselves.</p><p>&ldquo;No offense to politicians but they don&rsquo;t understand the veterans situation, and by me being a veteran I could understand our own situation, the problems we deal with,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>The main room at America Cares Too contains a donated TV and a desk with no phone (Bizzle uses his cellphone to run the project because the ComEd bill was too high).</p><p>Three computers sit on folding tables donated by a recovery group that meets next door. And in the back there&rsquo;s a spare office where Bizzle keeps vets&rsquo; files. The walls are lines with boxes of donated toys and socks and underwear purchased with TJ Maxx and Target gift cards. Bizzle&rsquo;s appeals to local government bodies and the VA for financial support <a href="http://austintalks.org/2013/01/former-austin-resident-starts-veterans-nonprofit/" target="_blank">have been unsuccessful so far</a>.</p><p><strong>A chronic lack of support</strong></p><p>This month Esquire reported that the Navy Seal who shot Osama Bin Laden is jobless and living without health insurance. The headline: <a href="http://www.esquire.com/features/man-who-shot-osama-bin-laden-0313" target="_blank">&ldquo;The Man Who Killed Osama bin Laden...Is Screwed.&rdquo;</a> Although Esquire&rsquo;s story can&rsquo;t be independently verified - the man in question chose to remain anonymous for his own safety - it reflects a widespread disappointment in the services provided by the state for vets, especially younger vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. In the case of &ldquo;the shooter,&rdquo; as he&rsquo;s called in Esquire, the Navy Seal retired after 16 years of service. That meant no pension, and no more health care for his family. The cutoff point for long-term support is 20 years of service.</p><p>Bizzle&rsquo;s located just a couple miles from the Hines VA Hospital, which helps thousands of vets each year. The Hines complex includes housing for homeless vets, and a network of social service providers. I called them to ask how a vet would end up at a little joint like Bizzle&rsquo;s.</p><p>&ldquo;I think the predominant reasons are, there are a small cohort of veterans who just do not want to be in any system,&rdquo; said Anthony Spillie, the head of social work at Hines.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS7009_015-scr.JPG" style="height: 214px; width: 380px; float: left;" title="Homer Bizzle reorganizes his small food pantry for veterans. (WBEZ/Lewis Wallace)" />There are an estimated 18,000 homeless vets in the greater Chicago area, and he says that despite offering extensive services, some people just fall through the cracks. Groups like Bizzle&rsquo;s can help catch them.</p><p>&ldquo;There is no wrong door approach,&rdquo; Spillie said. &ldquo;You know most of the time you think of accessing services through the front door. Well, we&rsquo;ll open whatever door we can possibly open for veterans to end and treat their homelessness.</p><p>Bizzle wants to hire veterans to be case workers and counselors, and one day turn his own Bellwood home into a transitional housing center for <a href="http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-07-27/returning-home-presents-different-challenges-female-veterans-89707" target="_blank">female vets</a>.</p><p>But the lack of support is frustrating - and so is seeing what his fellow vets go through.</p><p>&ldquo;It be times I wanna throw that uniform in the garbage,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Follow <a href="https://twitter.com/LewisPants" target="_blank">Lewis Wallace on Twitter</a>.</p></p> Wed, 13 Feb 2013 10:54:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/forest-park-vet-struggles-keep-others-out-homelessness-105502 Chicago to conduct homeless census http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-conduct-homeless-census-105084 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/flickr_paul_kehrer.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Volunteers will hit the city&rsquo;s alleys, streets and CTA lines Tuesday night to ask people who are sleeping outside or on trains and buses if they have a place to go.</p><p>If those people say no, they&rsquo;ll be counted in Chicago&rsquo;s biennial &ldquo;point-in-time&rdquo; homeless census. The count happens in January because on colder nights, more people are likely to check into shelters &ndash; where they&#39;ll get counted automatically &ndash; leaving fewer people to count elsewhere.&nbsp;</p><p>This one-night census can&rsquo;t establish the total number of people experiencing homelessness, but it does provide data that&#39;s used by the federal government to parcel out funding for anti-homelessness initiatives around the country.<iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F76079691" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Tedd Peso of the Night Ministry, an agency that provides services to homeless youth, remembers the last count.</p><p>&ldquo;It was cold, but it was not this cold, and I remember there was snow on the ground,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;But tonight&rsquo;s gonna be a cold night.&rdquo;</p><p>But who&rsquo;s still outside on a night that&rsquo;s predicted to be 8 degrees with a windchill below zero?</p><p>&ldquo;You and I may think when it&rsquo;s 1 degree or 5 degrees out, why wouldn&rsquo;t somebody wanna go into a warming shelter?&rdquo; Peso said.</p><p>During two previous counts, Peso said he&#39;s learned that for some people, a shelter full of strangers may feel even less safe than the streets. For others, mental health issues make it harder to get there.</p><p>&ldquo;Sometimes people just don&rsquo;t have the cognitive understanding of how to find out the information to go to a warming center or go to a shelter,&rdquo; Peso said.</p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s 2011 count found more than 6,500 people in shelters or on the streets, and of those, one in five was severely mentally ill.</p><p>But the count is just a snapshot of one night. Estimates of the number of people who are homeless range much higher, <a href="http://www.thechicagoalliance.org/homelessness101.aspx" target="_blank">from 21,000</a> to more than&nbsp;<a href="http://www.chicagohomeless.org/faq-studies/" target="_blank">100,000</a>. These larger numbers include families who have lost their homes and are now living doubled-up with friends or relatives.</p><p>Even some of the higher numbers may not include minors if they&#39;re not with their families. The Night Ministry estimates that on a given night, there about 2,000 unaccompanied youths on the streets. Citywide, there are about 300 shelter beds for young people.</p><p>Peso said for youths who are out there alone, it may be safer for to avoid revealing they&#39;re homeless.</p><p>&ldquo;For a person who&rsquo;s on the streets, that might be their way that they survive is by telling people that they have a place to stay tonight,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s their survival is not letting people know they&rsquo;re homeless.&rdquo;</p></p> Tue, 22 Jan 2013 14:48:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-conduct-homeless-census-105084 Midwest bundles up as bitter cold grips region http://www.wbez.org/news/midwest-bundles-bitter-cold-grips-region-105074 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/cold_flickr_meddygarnet.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>MADISON, Wis. &mdash; Homeless people scrambled to find shelter, schools closed down and plumbers wrestled with frozen pipes Tuesday as the Upper Midwest endured a third straight day of bitter cold temperatures.</p><p>Waves of frigid Arctic air began sweeping south from Canada on Saturday night, locking the Midwest in a deep freeze that has left a section of the country well-acquainted with winter&#39;s pains reeling. Authorities suspect exposure has played a role in at least three deaths so far.</p><p>&quot;I am wearing a Snuggie under a top and another jacket over that,&quot; said Faye Whitbeck, president of the chamber of commerce in International Falls, Minn., a town near the Canadian border where the temperature was minus 30 on Tuesday morning. The anticipated high was a balmy 8 below. &quot;I pulled out a coat that went right to my ankles this morning and I wore two scarves.&quot;</p><p>The coldest location in the lower 48 states Monday was Embarrass, Minn., at 36 below. On Sunday it was Babbitt, Minn., at 29 below, according to the National Weather Service. The bitter conditions were expected to persist into the weekend in the Midwest through the eastern half of the U.S., said Shawn DeVinny, a National Weather Service meteorologist in suburban Minneapolis.</p><p>Ariana Laffey, a 30-year-old homeless woman, kept warm with a blanket, three pairs of pants and six shirts as she sat on a milk crate begging near Chicago&#39;s Willis Tower Tuesday morning. She said she and her husband spent the night under a bridge, bundled up under a half-dozen blankets.</p><p>&quot;We&#39;re just trying to make enough to get a warm room to sleep in tonight,&quot; Laffey said.</p><p>But in Sioux Falls, S.D., where winter temperatures are normally well below freezing, some homeless shelters had open beds. Shelter managers suspect people who needed a place to stay were already using the services before the temperatures reached more extreme lows. The first cold snap of the season was in early December. Overnight temperatures dropped to 9 below with the wind chill. In Vermillion, S.D., a water pipe break forced the evacuation of a dormitory at the University of South Dakota, with nearly 500 students offered hotel rooms.</p><p>In Michigan&#39;s Upper Peninsula, residents woke to a wind chill that made it feel like 35 below. The temperature in Madison, Wis., was a whopping 1 degree above just before midday Tuesday. For northern Illinois, it was the first time in almost two years that temperatures had dipped below zero.</p><p>The temperature in Detroit was a toasty 7 degrees with a 10 below wind chill around midday. City officials said they planned to extend hours at its two warming centers. A warming center run by St. Peter and Paul Jesuit Church downtown that usually sees 50 to 60 people on a typical winter day had taken in about 90 people Tuesday morning.</p><p>Police in Milwaukee, where the temperature was just 2 degrees at noon, checked under freeway overpasses to find the homeless and urge them to find a shelter. The United Way of Greater Milwaukee has donated $50,000 to two homeless shelters so they can open overflow centers.</p><p>&quot;We&#39;re incredibly relieved,&quot; said Donna Rongholt-Migan, executive director of the Cathedral Center, a Milwaukee shelter that received $25,000. &quot;I was walking my dog last night and I couldn&#39;t feel my legs just after walking around the block.&quot;</p><p>Schools across the region either started late or didn&#39;t open at all. Districts in Duluth, Minn., and Ashland, Bayfield, Hurley, Washburn and Superior in far northern Wisconsin closed amid warnings that the wicked wind chills could freeze exposed flesh within a minute.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s brutal,&quot; Courtney Thrall, a 21-year-old University of Wisconsin-Madison student, said as she waited for her bus, her fur-trimmed parka hood pulled over her head.</p><p>On Sunday, a 70-year-old man was found frozen in his unheated home in Des Plaines, Ill. And in Green Bay, Wis., a 38-year-old man was found dead outside his home Monday morning. Authorities in both cases said the victims died of hypothermia and cold exposure, with alcohol a possible contributing factor.</p><p>A 77-year-old Illinois woman also was found dead near her car in southwestern Wisconsin on Saturday night.</p><p>The plunging temperatures made life plenty miserable for plumbers.</p><p>Workers in Madison had to repair at least four water main breaks since Sunday afternoon. Jim Gilchrist, a third-generation plumber in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, said he received about five or six calls Tuesday from people with frozen water pipes in their homes. Few pipes had actually burst &mdash; yet.</p><p>&quot;We&#39;ll probably get those calls later, as pipes begin thawing&quot; and develop a split, Gilchrist said. &quot;Today they just know they don&#39;t have water; tomorrow they will have water spraying.&quot;</p><p>At least two fires in southern Wisconsin were blamed on property owners using heaters or other means to thaw frozen pipes. In one case, a dairy barn was destroyed, and in the other, a mobile home was lost. No one was hurt.</p></p> Tue, 22 Jan 2013 12:11:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/midwest-bundles-bitter-cold-grips-region-105074