Erin Allen: Good morning. It is Friday. I'm Erin Allen, and this is The Rundown. The amount of unhoused folks living in Chicago has been increasing, especially since the pandemic began. I mean it’s a problem everywhere. HUD estimates more than half a million people live on public streets at any given point in time. So yeah, everybody’s talking about it, we’ve been reporting on it, and there’re all kinds of opinions about where to start to address it. One of those starting points is most definitely monetary. The city of Chicago is set to receive one of the largest federal grant awards of any city to address this growing unhoused population. According to my colleague Claudia Morell, the grant is for $60 million dollars from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. It’ll go toward direct aid and vouchers to provide permanent housing and social services to unhoused folks. Housing Secretary Marcia Fudge was here yesterday for the announcement, and she said she picked Chicago on purpose.
Marcia Fudge: We tend to focus a lot of our attention on the coasts. I am from the heartland, and we have problems as well.
Erin Allen: Fudge said Chicago had the most detailed grant application of any other city.
There’re about ten acres on the west side that used to be the home of a paint factory. When that closed, most of the land sat vacant for about four decades until recently. A new state-of-the-art sports, education and wellness complex opened there, yesterday. My colleague Michael Puente is reporting that the 35-million-dollar “North Austin Community Center” is like a dream come true for a lot of folks in the area.
And it’s pretty decked out: it’s more than 150 thousand square feet, and there’s year-round indoor sports activities like a soccer field and a baseball academy, as well as quite a bit of educational programming. Camella Sutton lives around there, and she says the new center makes her proud.
Camella Sutton: Yesterday, they did not know us individually. But today, we stand together. And they now know that we are the North Austin community.
Erin Allen: The development of the center was spearheaded by the Grace and Peace Revive Center as well as the “By The Hand Club for Kids.” And it takes a village, a number of other organizations are also partners.
So have you seen that show on HBO, The Last of Us? It’s set in a post-apocalyptic world that’s been taken over by brain-controlling fungi, and the creepy crawly part of the storyline is actually real. Also, as my colleague Hunter Clauss put it, the fungus is among us. I mean, it's not that “among us.” You don’t need to go stocking up on toilet paper and hand sany again. But some of the fungus is housed for research purposes at the Field Museum, right here in Chicago.
Matt Nelsen, is a researcher at the museum, and he told WBEZ during a recent field trip that the fungus is nowhere near as deadly in the real world. It can take over the minds of insects, but not humans. And it’s because we are warm-blooded. The fungus is off limits to the public, but you can see in photos and videos how they affect insects at WBEZ dot org. If you’re into zombies, yeah, definitely go look.
So I’ve been talking a lot about elections for mayor, but as my colleague Justin Bull mentioned last week, Chicagoans will vote for their new alderpeople and police district council member, that’s that new office that’ll serve as a bridge between police and the community. And if you want a little help with the candidates in that arena, you guessed it, we got a guide for that. You go to WBEZ dot org slash voter guide, type in an address to see what ward you’re in and what police district you’re in. Once that pops up, you can see who’s running for both councils, and what issues they care about. That' the the type of tool I know I’ve been wishing was available for a minute now. Go to WBEZ.org/voterguide to look it up.
And a few quick hit before we get to the weather. There’s a new initiative to highlight artistic work by Chicago artists of color. Wonder Museum and The New Vanguard have created a group called “The Creatives of Color.” It’s a year-long initiative that will highlight four artists. And the first exhibition by Hyde Park native Nikko Washington debuts tonight at the Wonder Museum. Each artist will have two months of exhibit space.
For the night owls out there, my colleague Taylor Faye Nazon was on the City Cast Chicago podcast yesterday with every hotspot for Chicago nightlife. They’re talking venues to dance, eat, drink and be merry. Taylor even included a few places of the speakeasy persuasion. There’s so much there, even for the winter months. You can listen and take notes at Chicago.citycast.fm. Have fun this weekend.
As for weather today, is it me or are the coldest days the sunniest days? Bright and sunny again today, with a high of 12 degrees. But right now, watch out even more. It’s still in the single digits. And tonight it’s full circle, back in the single digits.
And that’s it for now. Coming up this afternoon, we’ve got a lot of podcasts here at WBEZ, but Motive? You’re definitely gonna want to check out season five, which just dropped. It’s a journey through the nuance of gang banging, gang family, and folks working to intervene in gang activity in Chicago.
Patrick Smith: And the fact that that we have so many people who feel they have to join a gang or they have to do drugs or whatever to make a living, it’s a real failure of us as a society.
Erin Allen: I’m talking with the host of Motive for this season, my colleague Patrick Smith about the year he spent reporting on the life. That’s this afternoon at 2 on The Rundown. I’m Erin Allen. Talk to you then.
WBEZ transcripts are generated by an automatic speech recognition service. We do our best to edit for misspellings and typos, but mistakes do come through.