North Side’s Day Support Services Center under the direction of Nedra Summerrise and her awesome staff delivered as promised, holding their first annual coat drive on Saturday October 28th! The team distributed 143 coats or vouchers for coats, 120 blankets, 47 cell phone registratons, 10 HIV/AIDS rapid testing and 20 diabetes screening! Lines formed on Sheridan all the way around the corner on Lawrence Avenue, which demonstrates the vast need of our community’s most vulnerable populations. For more information on how to access the services of our Center please contact Carlos Gomez at (773) 271-8330. For ways to get involved through volunteerism, donating financially or non-cash contributions to the Center or North Side, please call (773) 244-6409.

The struggle to establish stability after separation from the foster care system compounds other instabilities of this developmental transition that occurs in any young person’s life. Meeting basic needs, such as housing, can be challenging. Having a history of being in foster care as a child is an important risk factor for adult homelessness (Bassuk et al., 1997; Herman, Susser, Struening, & Link, 1997; Morrell-Bellai, Goering, & Boydell,2000; Roman & Wolfe, 1995; Stein, Leslie, & Nyamathi, 2002). Former foster youth who are emerging adults often do not have traditional families or parental figures to turn to for material or emotional support. To the extent that data are available, the older the person when they enter foster care, the more likely they are to age out of the system rather than reunify with the traditional families (Fernandes, 2008). Thus, homelessness can easily happen without the appropriate supports and networks.

As I think critically about homelessness prevention on a much larger scale than preventing evictions of single adults and families, not to say this isn’t important,  it is reasonable to look at intervening into the lives of youth transitioning out of foster care as one starting point.  I was talking to a long-time child and youth advocate, Darryl Calhoun, who is also a foster parent of special needs children, about the need for youth while they are in foster care to gain the life skills needed before they are emancipated. He sadly shared, “Most often, youth are not adequately prepared to succeed in life after foster care. It’s understandable they end up homeless.” “Moreover,” he put forward, “The help has to start way before their 18th birthday.”

Therefore, when we think through what this help looks like, it’s easy to conclude that a number of other variables must be incorporated into a child’s life while he or she is in foster care, or any other home for that matter, that leads to success.  I surmise, adequate education is one of them. That is, if we believe Horace Mann (1848) who so eloquently orated, “Education…beyond all other devices of human origin, is a great equalizer of conditions of men –the balance wheel of the social machinery…It does better than to disarm the poor of their hostility toward the rich; it prevents being poor.” That’s some statement, but worthy of consideration and that leaves us with work to do.

The National Working Group on Foster Care and Education (2008) reported that less than 60% of youth in foster care finish high school before leaving care and that they score 16 to 20 percentile points below other students in statewide standardized tests.  Unfortunately, as youth transition from one foster care home to another, this often results in a change of school placement which can and does set them back academically and socially as a result of transfer issues, different levels of course curricula, and even making new friends. Moreover, when children and youth fall behind, it’s a huge mountain to climb to catch-up and many never do, which leads to dropping out–and of course attending college isn’t even on the radar.

The Group further shared that positive, stable school experiences enhance children’s well-being including leading to economic self-sufficiency which is a prerequisite to preventing and ending homelessness and poverty. Towards this end, the Fostering Connections to Success and Increased Adoption Act of 2008 requires states to focus on ensuring and enabling school stability and prompt enrollment in school for young people in foster care. Additionally, I believe now a child or youth in foster care can be identified as “homeless” when it comes to education, and any student homeless can remain at his or her school last attended, even if it’s not in the district of the new foster home.

So, what can housing and homelessness service providers do? Raise awareness about this issue is one solid mechanism to bring more national attention to educational disparate outcomes for youth in foster care, particularly youth of color. Partner with a child-welfare and/or educational agency dedicated to equitable and quality education to help ensure placement stability and transfer of accurate records, advocate for literacy and work with schools to make it a priority for youth after graduating from high school to either be prepared to enter college, even community college is a great start, or have the skills to secure and retain an entry level position at a company or organization earning living wages. After all, it doesn’t make much sense to be on top of our game intervening into the lives of those already homeless unless we turn around and engage in efforts to prevent future generations from becoming homeless. We talk often in the housing and homelessness services industry about “revolving doors” where consumers enter and exit emergency and interim housing programs numerous times. Thus, a generational revolving door is simply too incredulous to think about where we have served adults in the homeless system…and then see their children come through the same doors some eighteen years later.  Horrible thought, but we already are seeing it whether we know it our not.  Let’s do something about it now!

I imagine many nonprofit organizations in Illinois are breathing a sigh of relief now that Illinois policymakers have avoided cutting 52% of the Human Services line item. A cut of this magnitude could have easily closed down shelters and interim housing programs in Chicago, or at the very least forced them to reduce staff and programs to the bare minimum. North Side’s leadership team went to the drawing board and ran several scenarios around this issue attempting to be proactive if the hit came. None of the possibilities were remotely feasible. Therefore, while we are no doubt elated that the line item did not receive this huge cut and our program is being operated at full capacity, there still remains a nagging question, “Why do nonprofit agencies, darn near every year, have to go through this madness?”

Last year, the same situation occurred–bringing out advocacy and local governmental agencies. nonprofits, consumers and concerned citizens to the table to fight together to restore cuts that had occurred. I don’t understand. Research is clear on the positive impacts  of keeping people homeless and struggling with mental illness housed and with access to health care and other supportive services.  Okay, so that’s what we are doing and it’s a pretty good job I might add. So what else is needed? It’s hard to imagine that nonprofits do so much with so little, but the state of Illinois can’t do a little with the much they have! It’s pretty hard to get your hands around.  And, let’s face it even though nonprofits didn’t get hit, the budget crisis in Illinois still has negative implications for a number of other areas. For one, its appears that the closing of some Illinois state parks is on the nearby horizon for a lack of funding that has to be reallocated to other line items like pensions. In 2002, the recreation department in Illinois totaled $106 million, but is now just $45.4 million in the spending plan that lawmakers sent Quinn last month. Not good. The answer seems to lie in raising Illinois license plate fees by $2.00 which isn’t going to go over that well with consumers. Yet, what else is left but increasing revenue to not only keep parks open, but everything else too? What’s sad about all of this is even though nonprofits avoided the axe, it’s a bittersweet victory because something else always gets the chop. So, unfortunately it looks like increasing revenue on license plates fees, cigarettes and other items may not be the most popular way to stem the gushing cash flow in Illinois, but it might just work. In any case, my conclusion is for everyone…don’t exhale just yet.

Social service agencies who receive funding from the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) are facing a 52% budget cut that is bound to seriously impact the level of services that can be provided to people who are homeless. Fifteen (15) agencies in Chicago will be affected if cuts go through, but what will be the biggest impact is the loss of services for our most vulnerable populations.

North Side operates a 50-bed interim housing program for men who are homeless, acquired from an agency who could no longer serve anymore. Here are some examples of how cuts would affect us and our tax payers:

  • Since December when we took over the interim housing program we have served 80 or so men. Out of the 80 served 52 have felony records. A funding loss of this magnitude could force all 52 back onto the streets, where the opportunity to re-offend is huge. Thus if this happens, it will cost $1,196.000 annually to incarcerate them, where it is costing approximately $6,365.00 dollars in temporary housing.
  • Men who reside in our interim housing program use the emergency rooms less frequently as places of primary care because they have access to our nurse practitioner. Without this temporary housing, they will without fail go back to using the emergency room as places of primary care—driving health care costs up. Fifty-two men without health care will use the emergecy room at a rate of $3,000 per visit for a total cost of $156,000, where now they receive free medical services.
  • At a point in time our interim housing program served 80 men, 44 who are dual diagnosed with a mental illness and substance use disorders. Without, at minimum, temporary housing, and in particular if they are forced back to the streets as a result of budget cuts,  44 men with a mental illness and substance use with no physical place to reside may seem like a small number—until you experience “spill-over effect” in your community.

Social service agencies such as North Side, deliver a myriad of programs that help keep our communities healthy and safe and are our most effective tools to lessen social and economic costs of homelessness, incarceration, mental illness and healthcare, among other social challenges. Therefore this type of budget cut should not be a consideration in Springfield.

North Side is dedicated to ending and preventing homelessness, a social issue that affects everyone. Historically, human services has been the line item that continuously receives the deepest of cuts and the impact always ushers in increased social issues in other areas such as crime, unemployment and the overall demise of our communities. At a time when Chicago is under siege by gang violence and crime (and it’s not even warm yet), it seems implausible to again look to human services as the line item to cut. The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability and Social IMPACT Research Center (2012) contend that, “Recent data makes a clear and compelling case that cutting expenditures on human services in this environment is counterproductive.

Governor Quinn, North Side Housing and Supportive Services urge you to rethink this cut to IDHS to balance your FY2013 budget. This seems unwise and promises to be detrimental to our city and communities in a number of ways.  Is Mayor Emmanual aware of the implications of such cuts to the city of Chicago?

We know there are many buzz words floating around in society today. Lately, I think at least once most of us have heard the phrase, “stimulating the economy” and most often it is in the context of the global economy. Thus, with the focus on global rather than local, it may be a struggle to grasp how economics plays itself out in our everyday lives, unless you live in Cook County and just got your tax bill for 2011! But, most times it seems we are just bombarded on the nightly news with economists who sleep statistics, numbers and strange formulas (Burkett, 2009) and talk more about global economy then what is going on right next door.  Yet, as author Mike Greenberg suggests, “While ‘the economy’ of the economists inhabits an abstract number space, the economy of the real world happens in physical space, in the places where you and I and our neighbours interact”.  Burkett further explains that an understanding of our local economy should be on the front burner of everyone’s priorities. When we see social isolation, a lack of neighborhood businesses and other enterprises, a cultural of fear and dependency, and no sense of community, we should be deeply concerned. A way to draw people into being concerned about the local economy may rest in analysis that contain real life stories with real people..not abstract statistical equations or what could happen with out-of-this world probabilities!

Rather than economic change being the result of economists jumping into the arena Burkett contends that more community development workers or maybe community psychologists will agree to “jump into the good fight” and grapple with questions such as, ‘How can we truly address poverty in its many forms?’ This means that more folks engaging in community capacity building have to embrace it from an economical perspective. What follows below is especially poignant that Burkett shares:

The roots of the word “economy” are interesting in themselves. Economy” comes from the greek oikos, the house, and ‘nomos’ or management…so essentially it means management of the household.  Of course the word “ecology” comes from the same root, finishing with logos, or knowledge, so meaning “knowing the home”.  The idea that economics is about considering our world and our communities as a ‘home’ provides us with a wonderful framework for understanding the principles and practices of community economic development: In a home we are concerned not just with the well-being of one or two people, but the well-being of all members of the household; We know, in a home, that if we pollute one room, then that will affect all other rooms of the home; We wouldn’t sit at the dining room table and prepare a feast for only one or two members of the household while the others starve. 

As community development experts, community psychologists or nonprofit organizations serving the community, we have all signed on to “client-centered” services and agree that we need the full participation of all involved in development and research including the benefactors. Towards this end, as we have embraced this philosophy or framework for development, interventions and the like, we now have to create this same model for what Burkett calls community centered economics.

Very interesting because historically economics has favored corporations and not community households as its unit of analysis. Of course, this means that the interests of corporations have been at the forefront of economics and certainly not households.  In “community centered economics”  human community and its inter-related ecosystem is veiwed as a holistic unit of organization for the production and consumption of goods to meet the community’s current needs, and for the preservation and enhancement of the community’s present and future productive capacity. Economic development occurs when the community’s capacity for increased future economic output, including the sustainable output of its natural resources and ecological capital, is increased (Soxa, para, 9).

Well see there. It seems as one person put it, “Global economies have gone local, and local economies have gone global.” Believe it, or not.

“Home is the place where a job goes to live, ” so said fomer Mayor and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Henry Cisneros (2006). Cisneros shared that as a nation we should not begin to embark upon the creation of jobs as a vehicle for economic development unless we are simultaneously addressing housing development.

Is there anything else we need to say on this matter or have Cisneros said it all?  Well, the answer most likely depends on who you talk to? For example, I was discussing this concept with a person who works in the public housing arena. She said, “In terms of needs, shelter/housing is a more important need to a person who has no stable home, only for a minute.” So, in planning perhaps the most beneficial model might be the jobs-housing balance. Weitz (2003) wrote that the jobs-housing balance is a viable tool for government and private housing providers to use as a method to achieve equal housing units and jobs. Ideally, Weitz explains, that jobs in the community should meet that community’s skills, and thus, housing should be of all types, sizes and costs. Yet, jobs-housing balances aren’t the norm and high-end housing developments consistently outnumber affordable housing developments. The market demand is in high-end developments and of course so is the high profit margins as well.

Consequences of a Jobs-Housing Imbalance

When evaluated, the spatial distance between jobs and housing has created much of the negative repercussions of traffic conditions including road rage and indirect impact such as a loss of worker productivity, family issues as people get home later and later, and poor air quality cannot be left out.

What to Do?

Communities are realizing that their land-use plans in efforts to spur economic development must take into consider the jobs-housing balance. This means taking a look at the types of jobs in an area and the types and cost of housing.  Cervero (1989), considered the leader in jobs-housing models suggests that “jobs-housing balance policies can help to reduce urban sprawl and lower energy consumption” both key to spurring economic development.

The jobs-housing model is not without opposition. Economists argue that over time the natural processes of the market will balance jobs and housing without government intervention. Others contend that there is no evidence that if people could live closer to their jobs they would opt to do so. Another perspective is that people choose homes for many other reasons besides proximity to work.

Creating an effective jobs-housing model is no easy task. Land-use planning is always prone to what the community wants, zoning, and the evaluation of individual proposals by local government entities. Perhaps a way to get better balance is re-zoning to allow for mixed-use of land and simply developing land and jobs at the same time. Is it something true about Cisneros’ point? Jobs go home. Wow.

Robert Putnam (2000) put forward an interesting framework regarding reasons why some communities are healthy, regain and retain health. Putnam contends that the primary key is social capital: “features of social organization, such as networks, norms and trust that facilitate coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit.” Social capital enhances benefits of investment in physical and human capital. Social capital is a necessary ingredient for successful economic development. Putnam’s theory has been so widely accepted, it is almost synonomous with community development.

     What is social capital? We hear the term all the time thrown here and there. In fact it could be classified as one of the latest “buzz” words. Unfortunately social capital is one of those terms that has no universal definition similar to other terms like harm reduction and community development. Depending on who is doing the investigating and why, social capital can have a number of meanings. Several researchers define social as the value of social networks, bonding similar people and bridging between diverse people, with norms of reciprocity (Dekker and Uslaner 2001; Uslaner 2001). Sander (2002 p.213) stated that ‘the folk wisdom that more people get their jobs from whom they know, rather than what they know, turns out to be true’.

     Yet, DeFilippis says Putnam’s theory fails to take into consideration the challenges of power in producing communities and it is separated from economic development. DeFilippis explains that since people who live in affluent suburbs experience a significant level of social isolation, why are those interested in economic development in low-income communities stressing the use of social capital as a viable method for moving low income people and communities out of poverty?  Good question. Perhaps in low-income communities people really aren’t as socially isolated as it seems. In this case, a  fair subsequent assumption might be, “poor doesn’t equal lonely”. DeFilippis sort of agrees and argues that low-income communities are not disconnected and have plenty of social networks including nonprofit organizations. He says what they lack is “power” and the “capital” that creates that power.

     Okay, here’s my opinion, seems communities are in dire need of community psychologists who are being taught to not just study individuals and how they affect communities, but how communities impact individuals as well. However, DeFilippis says communities really aren’t living organisms and therefore can’t impact people. Does anyone agree? I’m not so sure communities aren’t living organisms—corporations are certainly set up to be a “person” per se, and the power they wield is beyond measure. How come communities can’t do the same thing?  I think some communities are already doing this—shouldn’t we spend more time studying these communities rather than spending more time studying poor communities and the people that comprise them?

Community Hope, in partnership with private developer Peabody Properties in Parsippany, New Jersey has been awarded conditional approval by the Veterans Administration to develop Valley Brook Village. This “veterans village” will consist of 63 units of apartments and townhouses for homeless veterans and those at-risk of homelessness as a result of post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury and physical disabilities incurred in combat (Community Hope, 2011). The development is planned for 9 acres of land on the Lyons VA facility in New Jersey. There are also a number of cities around the nation who have plans for land use development of veteran villages around VA facilities including Edward Hines in Maywood, west of Chicago.

A reasonable question regarding housing developments such as Valley Brook and the one proposed at Hines is, what is the economic impact? One way to find out is by using an economic impact analysis. Economic impact analysis predicts how an initial change to to an economic event will impact the greater economy (Tuck, 2008). For example, say the current demand for affordable housing is at an all time high–which it is! Thus, the increase in the construction of affordable housing affects the demand and supply for materials to build the home, labor of contractors and architects, and electricians, among other needed labor and materials. This process continues and what is known as the “ripple” effect started by the increase in the construction of homes continue as well. Tuck further explains that the sum of the ripple effects related to an increased demand for supplies is called the “indirect” effect. Thus, the initial effect, plus the indirect and induced (sum of ripples associated with spending by the laborers building the house), added together produce the total economic effect. It is not hard to see that the total effect is positive even in its most simplest form.

So, another good question might be–then why are we not building more affordable housing for veterans and everyone else if they are economically sound? The reasons vary, but answers are rooted in high prices for land, impact fees, zoning requirements and pricy carrying costs. Pair this with community residents and groups who assume that affordable housing equals a myriad of negative impacts including increased traffic and subsequent demise of a community and continously, demand far exceeds supply. Low Income HousingTax Credits (LIHTC) offered to developers have been 90% successful in helping to increase the supply of affordable housing when used, however it’s become almost impossible to find willing developers who will use tax credits because they are complex and require inordinant amounts of time to acquire.

Yes, affordable housing is in huge demand for our veterans and low-income citizens alike, but building these units is not as easy as it might seem. Innovative approaches to getting the developments constructed include possibly blending affordable and market-rate units, combining rentals and homeownership in the same complex, using energy efficient features, creating opportunities for partnerships with nonprofit organizations and of course creative financing including using tax credits. It’s no easy task—but here’s to “villages” that can house folks while boosting our sagging economy at the same time!

On December 1st, North Side took over a 50-bed Interim Housing Program in Uptown that the REST agency previously operated. REST had been around for decades serving the Uptown community and city of Chicago. However, as it often does, the road turned and the agency was no longer able to manage the program. It’s ironic that North Side acquired the program, as the agency closed its own 30-bed Interim Housing program in December of 2010, the result of several variables. Now, almost a year-to-the day, the call was made to move forward with the 50-bed program in Uptown.

Taking over an existing 50-bed interim housing program for men homeless is no easy task. But, its what making the call looks like. After initial assessments, case managers reported that 10 of the 54 guys living in the space are veterans. North Side hopes to transition these guys and others who live there, into permanent housing in the very near future. With the war in Iraq ending, available transitional and permanent housing is critical–because unfortunately many veterans returning to America won’t be going to a home! Many times veterans make the initial decision to join the military due to broken family relationships and therefore really didn’t leave for war from a stable home environment, and therefore do not return to a stable home environment. At other times returning combat veterans who do have stable home environments do not return to those homes because at the end of war, they have become a stranger to themselves and their families (Dave Rogers, personal communication, 2011). What ever the case, available housing is desparately needed–and again, this is a huge challenge–but it’s what is needed for right now. We said we would make the call and are asking others to do the same. After all you never know whose life you might be saving…and people are worth saving.

by Geraldine L. Palmer

Brody (2010) in an article written for the Associated Content online network asked the question, “When will we demand that our political leaders think ahead, instead of simply reacting when there is a crisis? We need proactive, instead of reactive government!”  Ouch! Who thinks he has a point? Brody used the Katrina tragedy as an example of reacting rather than being proactive.  He argued that our government knew that there were serious structural defects in the levee system and that the “perfect storm” would cause devastation. However, instead of correcting the defect beforehand, the government took the, “hope, pray, wait and see approach, and unfortunately, the “denial” method.  He doesn’t stop with Katrina but also discusses the Haiti earthquake tragedy as another example of “waiting to exhale” —sharing that our government also knew that Haiti is built on the Port of Prince fault lines–a disaster in the making. Mmmm, in the case of the epidemic of homelessness in our country, another ongoing tragedy of signicant proportion, it seems that our government has been in the reactive more than proactive stage. Otherwise how can we account for veteran homelessness being the massive issue that it is?  After all, the need for adequate veteran housing didn’t start yesterday.

By the summer of 1946, nearly 10-million men and women were released from the armed forces and faced a severe housing shortage. Many veterans “doubled-up” living with family and friends. Housing construction had come to a screeching halt during the war–which exacerbated the issue during this time.  Additionally the majority of existing housing was substandard and deemed “slum dwellings”.  The government looked to private housing developers who came through only to a certain degree. Developers did construct pre-fabricated housing in the suburbs–for as little as $7,000 per house (Lustren, 2011), but this action created another crisis—residential segregation (That’s another story).

In any case–certainly not enough housing of any kind was built and this factor still exists today. So, if we know that as far back as World War II, housing for veterans reached a crisis level—isn’t it reasonable to think after the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, housing is going to be needed?  Yet, the VA just decided in October of 2011 that a concerted effort needed to happen to end veteran homelessness?  Now, I’m not anti-VA. In fact I support the VA totally and have no problem becoming a soldier in “the good fight” to end veteran homelessness. I know it takes a community ( governmental agencies, community and faith-based organizations, individual leaders, etc.)  to solve social challenges. Yet, the “wait-see” approach does leaves me perplexed and an inclination to agree with Brody about being reactive versus proactive. We couldn’t think that homelessness is going away without intervention–that somehow housing is going to magically appear–or do we?

I don’t know, but back when I was a young girl, growing up in those created south suburbs of Chicago–my mother had an old saying that I carry in my arsenal and use to this day. She did a fine job of teaching me to be proactive. She simply said, “It’s better to be safe, than sorry.”

Center on Halsted

Community Social Services

We are happy to announce our partnership with The Center on Halsted in Chicago's Lakeview community. Our office is located on the second floor. Whether you have questions about housing, or just want to learn more about general resources, our community case manager is available to help.

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