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Homeless Hotspots: beyond the rhetoric

Wed, Mar 14, 2012

Jim LoBianco

As the executive director of StreetWise Chicago, the oldest running street newspaper in North America, I have followed with interest the strong opinions regarding the Homeless Hotspots pilot project launched a couple of days ago in Austin by BBH and Front Steps, (the Austin area Homeless Alliance). Although I agree completely with New York based homeless advocate, Bill de Blasio’s, assertion that experienced advocates must, “ensure the fair and dignified treatment of any” homeless person participating in this program, I would warmly welcome BBH and its innovative thinking to Chicago. I wasn’t in Austin to see how the two day pilot was implemented so I cannot vouch that everything was done as well as it could have been, and clearly the chatter took on a life of its own; however, in this pilot I can see hints of the same kind of innovative creativity that sparked the street newspaper business over fifty years ago.

While those of us who are dedicated to advocating for the rights of the homeless need to carefully vet ideas to assure that those in crisis are not exploited, we should also be open to new ideas and appreciative of those from non-social service based fields who are willing to put in the time and effort to bring new resources to the fight against poverty and homelessness. Also, while advocates should have a voice in the matter, it can be condescending to imply that a homeless man or women is incapable of making a decision about his or her own wellbeing. Twenty years of StreetWise Chicago is proof that a motivated person can be his or her own best advocate when it comes to identifying the resources they need to set themselves on a road back to stability and self-sufficiency.

I look forward to seeing how BBH can become an effective partner with the homeless community and I would like to support them in their efforts going forward.

By Jim LoBianco
StreetWise Executive Director

I would greatly appreciate your thoughts and suggestions. You are welcome to contact me at either jlobianco@streetwise.org or (773) 334-6600 (ext. 22).

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