Stating her support for the Plan to End Homelessness 2.0, Leslie Hairston, whose ward is located in Hyde Park and South Shore (53rd Street to the North, Lake Michigan to the East, Chicago Skyway to the Southwest, Cottage Grove to the West) said she believes inaccessibility to services is a major contributor to the problem of homelessness, as is funding. Social services and housing aid are “concentrated around the 311, and I just wonder how people without access to telephones or cell phones [would contact them],” Hairston said. It “requires great effort to either go to a police station or find out where there is a shelter or where they can get services.”
Because victims of homelessness often lack these resources, the City of Chicago DFSS response teams that go into the community and seek to link them to services are particularly important, she said. DFSS and the Chicago Alliance to End Homelessness jointly administer Chicago’s Plan to End Homelessness 2.0. Hairston also mentioned The Night Ministry. It provides a similar intensive service with its health outreach bus Monday and Wednesday nights at 71st and Jeffery; the bus has nurses and nurse practitioners offering adult immunizations, health education, foot care, testing for pregnancy, Hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS; screening and monitoring of chronic health problems.
Noting the large population of youth who are homeless in her ward, Hairston said she works in collaboration with the Gary Comer Science and Education Foundation (CSEF), the Black United Fund of Illinois (BUFI), Salvation Army and Annie B. Jones (ABJ) Community Services Inc. which offers health and human services to families, children and seniors. This year, funding for BUFI’s MASH (Making Stuff Happen) community outreach ran out. Hairston hopes it will be reinstated so MASH can continue reaching out holistically to ex-offenders, those suffering from homelessness and former gang mambers.
On the topic of affordable housing, Hairston said that while her ward is “pretty affluent,” it boasts an “extremely diverse community” and “could always use more affordable housing.” But the ward also needs “supportive services and the funding that goes with it, Hairston said. “We need job training. Services that can serve our community so people can get jobs” and achieve sustainability.
“I think we have to [create] more wraparound services in order to be successful,” Hairston said. Everything must be brought together in an all-inclusive system. “[It’s] not just about housing, [it’s] about education.” A “whole support system” is needed for “whatever issues individuals may be having.” Some of the needs in the 5th ward include tutoring, social work and transportation access.
Like other Aldermen, Hairston believes that desegregation would drastically improve the City:
“If Chicago were truly desegregated and people had equal access to jobs and to goods and services, that would do a lot. And education, since we’re talking about closing many of our public schools, particularly in the black and brown community. If we were desegregated and equally educated – you could get just as good an education on the North Side as the South Side – that would go a long way. The majority of the schools being closed are on the South and West Side – 80 percent.”