Thursday, March 7, 2013

March in Support of the Homeless



Yesterday there was a march in support of the homeless and the agencies that work among marginalized populations in Uptown (Chicago). The march was called as a result of some political missteps from the ward alderman who has tried to shut down various services in the area. All in the name of “public safety.”

Of course this is a euphemism for NOT IN MY BACKYARD.

For those of my readers who might feel I’ve taken up too much of my memoirous blog writing about James Cappleman and the plight of ethnic/cultural diversity in Uptown—sorry.
At some point art and action need to intersect. I’m passionate about many things—writing and story amongst them, and I volunteer time at a homeless shelter working with the residents on memoir, being able to tell their story.

Putting all this together—I am concerned about the recent actions of the alderman that are targeting “the least of these”—remember the golden rule?—to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Since taking office the alderman has introduced several ordinances, an ordinance to close down the Wilson Men’s Club and an ordinance making it a $200 offense for a homeless person to “loiter” at a bus stop. My question is, is this profiling? I mean how can you tell if someone is homeless unless you stop them for no reason and demand ID and proof of address.

At the same time he is seeking to close down the Wilson Men’s Club there has been a rapid loss of affordable housing in Uptown, namely in SRO (single-room occupancy) units. Often this type of housing is the last step before a homeless shelter for people on fixed incomes. I just foresee a whole slew of problems when people who are housed, even marginally, end up on the streets. More crime (often inflicted upon the homeless, lest anyone assume it is the homeless who are always the perpetrators), more public urination, more sick and dying (as many of these residents are already healthwise on the fringes).

We are essentially helping ourselves when we help others.

Moreover, while losing affordable housing Uptown has recently attracted many mega-construction projects where the alderman has taken no firm stand with the developers in setting aside units deemed affordable. The city defines rent as affordable when a household earning 60 percent of the area median income can reasonably pay it. Sixty percent of the Chicago area’s median income is $44,160 annually for a household of four and $30,960 a year for a one-person household, according to the city. Thus an “affordable” rent for a one-bedroom apaprtment in one of the proposed highrises Alderman Cappleman is supporting (JDL developers See http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20130302/uptown/uptown-committee-votes-on-220m-tif-project) might be $1,200, with other units in the area of $1,700 to $1,800. Really? This kind of affordable housing is still beyond the means of most working-class people. By the way James Cappleman has committed $32 million in TIF assistance dollars to the $220 million project.

There is only so much myself or anyone can do to affect the tide of change, and often I sit by helpless. Last night was a chance to join with others and, if even for an hour, to feel empowered.
Neil Cowley pic
Neil Cowley pic

Here is a link to more great photos: http://bit.ly/Z2eJbL

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