This is a statement on equity and compassion for community members experiencing homelessness and resources for community leaders.
On January 12th, 2021 a member of our community that is experiencing homelessness had his belongings removed and thrown away by volunteers working for Alderman Gardiners office. You can read the story in this Block Club Article, “Alderman Praises His ‘Gardiner’s Angels’ Volunteers For Tossing Blankets, Food Belonging To Man Who Is Homeless” which was published today.
The NWSide Coalition Against Racism and Hate and Neighbors for Affordable Housing issues this statement, first on behalf of our communities on the North West Side, to apologize to Mr. Kenneth Padletic who endured this treatment. The removal of your belongings was disrespectful and dehumanizing and we are sorry this happened to you. We will hold ourselves and our leaders accountable to compassionate and helpful rather than harmful and dehumanizing practices in the future.
Second, we ask that all local leaders, including the 45th Ward Alderman’s office and volunteer staff, take responsibility to learn from this incident by engaging in training on best practices when engaging with community members experiencing homelessness. We have much to learn from educational resources educating fellow citizens about the trauma of such an event, and the nature of trauma generally for our unhoused neighbors.
The removal of belongings and displacement of our community members who are experiencing homelessness is a violation of The IL Bill of Rights for the Homeless Act. See specifically Sections:
10.a (1) the right to use and move freely in public spaces, including but not limited to public sidewalks, public parks, public transportation, and public buildings, in the same manner as any other person and without discrimination on the basis of his or her housing status;
and 10.a (7) the right to a reasonable expectation of privacy in his or her personal property to the same extent as personal property in a permanent residence.
For more than ten years, Hands to Help Ministries operated out of St. John’s Episcopal Church and provided street outreach and service connection to neighbors in homelessness or at risk around Old Irving and Six Corners. With the recent loss of hyper local neighborhood based services and support, there is even more of an unmet need on the far NW side. You can read more about this in the Nadig News article, “Local homeless outreach group Hands To Help ceases operations”.
In an effort to presume the best of intentions on behalf of community volunteers and acknowledging that our systems in this city continue to fail to protect the most vulnerable as well as educate and resource our communities on how best to come to one another’s aids in times of crisis we offer these resources for the education and equipping elected and paid community leadership as well as all volunteer staff.
- Residents of Jefferson Park have recently formed the Jefferson Park Working Group on Homelessness, a workgroup made up of community members and leaders that are working together to engage the issues of increased homelessness due to the shortage of affordable and accessible housing in our city, made worse by the Pandemic. Here is a resource they have created if you are assisting someone looking for a bathroom, warming or a shelter. The group just launched a Facebook page here and is hosting outreach workers for a “Housing Day” on January 28th at the Jefferson Park Transit Center.
- Here is a timely and upcoming opportunity for training. This training is a collaborative effort of social workers at housing non-profits, organizers, and leaders in the Chicago Union of the Homeless. It is intended for people working in mutual aid networks who are helping people facing homelessness or housing crises. You can register for the online webinar here.
- The National Low Income Housing Coalition is a great resource and they link to this guidance from the CDC: CDC Advises Against Clearing Homeless Encampments if Alternate Housing Is Not Available During Coronavirus Outbreak, the guidance states that, “Clearing encampments breaks connections between people experiencing homelessness and service providers and can increase the likelihood of spreading the disease to new communities.”
- Here is a HUD resource on, Understanding Encampments of People Experiencing Homelessness and Community Responses, page 13 describes how clearing encampments without support is not helpful and why.
- This is meant primarily for providers but is helpful reading and articulates community standards that are meant to assist the Chicago Continuum of Care (CoC) for service providers addressing issues of homelessness. But if you would like to learn more about that work, particularly Trauma Informed Care start with page 15 where you will find links to additional resources.
- To engage in community led advocacy work to reduce the experience of homelessness in Chicago, check out the work and leadership of Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.
Members of The Northwest Side Coalition Against Racism and Hate We live and work and are creating community on Chicago’s Northwest Side and we are committed to the transformation of our neighborhoods into antiracist, authentically diverse communities where everyone who lives, works or visits our neighborhoods will experience a sense of compassion, welcome and equity.
Members of Neighbors for Affordable Housing A grassroots community group supporting affordable, accessible housing on Chicago’s Northwest Side, and beyond.
Members of Jefferson Park Working Group On Homelessness A group of community leaders and volunteers helping provide dignified assistance to our unhoused neighbors, predominantly congregating at the Jeff Park Terminal for comfort.