Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Chicago Tuesdays (Late Edition): Bad News, Good News

First, the bad news. Bad, I suppose, if you were hoping for miracles in this city. But I like to be hopeful; it's a nice change of pace.

Last week 13 members of a committee defied Daley and forwarded the ordinance to set aside 20 percent of the city’s annual tax increment financing revenues toward affordable housing to a full city council vote last Wednesday.

With more than half of the aldermen in support, sponsor Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) was concerned that a few might “double cross” he and others who have worked since last spring to bring the ordinance to vote.

One week later the ordinance was back in the joint committee after intervention by the Mayor’s office. In the end, it was Burnett who decided to avoid the full vote. He decided that the wiser course of action was to negotiate a new substitute ordinance over the original—one that Daley could agree on while satisfying other aldermen now seeking amendments and reelection.

One possible amendment rips the guts out of the affordable housing ordinance by turning the articulated mandate to spend 20 percent of annual TIF dollars—about $100 million in 2009—into an unenforceable goal.

But now for some good news, just in time for our elaborately long winter season (care of Humboldt Park Portal News):

Eight years of hard work, long hours, and countless SOS calls culminated today in the opening of Humboldt Park Social Services' (HPSS) new interim-housing facility for men. Deborah McCoy, HPSS Board President, cut the ribbon for this new 22-bed facility that will allow homeless men to transition from emergency shelter to interim housing.

During an impassioned speech, Delia Ramirez, HPSS Executive Director, explained that this new model is critically important. Emergency facilities only provide extremely temporary shelter – often no more than one night, given intense demand. Interim housing, on the other hand, provides several months of shelter along with the wraparound services essential to a successful transition from homelessness to permanent housing and independent living.

Through its Center for Changing Lives and Center for Working Families, HPSS will offer such wraparound services as housing placement, housing relocation, housing counseling, and employment preparation to men housed within the facility. They will also offer job training to interim-housing residents through their soup kitchen, which feeds 100 people daily...

As a volunteer for the project, Dan Splaingard, Rose Architectural Fellow for Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation, designed and helped build the custom bunk beds for the space that will serve as the sleeping area. He explained, “We were trying to make something that, while utilitarian, was trying to give a bit of an uplift . . . a quality of the handmade with colors that will imbue a sense of home.”

James, one of the inaugural residents of the facility, seemed to agree. The university graduate had always held a job, but suddenly found himself unemployed, then homeless, several months ago. He expressed gratitude for the services provided by HPSS, asserting, “We need more like them” in the community.


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