Like Sposato, Cullerton also has few homeless people in his ward, located in Irving Park and Portage Park (Eastwood to the North, Keeler to the East, Belmont to the South and Forest Preserve Drive to the northwest), though he actively endorses Plan 2.0 and “any and all plans to end homelessness.” and is involved with a small group of aldermen who explore “ways to better coordinate assistance efforts by nonprofits, DFSS, and other departments citywide.
“I am by no means an expert in this field, but I did work for the Department of Buildings for 30 years before retiring in 2003 as First Deputy Building Commissioner. During my time with the Department, I worked in every part of our city and saw the worst of the worst, the best of the best, and everything in between in terms of living/housing conditions all across our city, and I was part of the SRO Task Force formed in the aftermath of the Paxton Hotel Fire back in 1993, as well as the Strategic Task Force which targets criminal housing.”
The Paxton Hotel, an SRO (single room occupancy) caught fire from an electric cord around 4 a.m., March 17, 1993. Nineteen confirmed deaths resulted from the fire that quickly spread to each story of the structure, according to online sources. The fire sparked a stream of criticism for the conditions of working-class tenants living in unsafe housing units without an indoor sprinkler system.
Cullerton views the homelessness problem in his ward as related to foreclosures. He is a member of the City Council Committee on Housing and Real Estate and works with the Northwest Side Housing Center to reduce the number of foreclosures and to increase the number of loan modifications offered by lending institutions.
Woodstock Institute foreclosure rate records reveals that Ward 38 suffered 358 foreclosure filings in 2012. However, this is a 13.5 percent drop from 2011.
He favors the Keep Chicago Renting ordinance proposed by Ald. Richard Mell (33rd ward). “I am also a proponent of raising the minimum wage in Chicago to a living wage,” said Cullerton.
The proposed Keep Chicago Renting ordinance is designed in response to the loss of city housing due to foreclosures. If approved, tenants would be permitted to remain in a foreclosed residency, after their lease has expired, until it is sold. It would also prevent rates from being raised without the opportunity for current residents to argue their rate in court, according to a July 2012 article in the Chicago Tribune.
Cullerton said he was not in a position to judge the effectiveness of existing homelessness programs in his ward, although he tries to listen and learn from people he considers to be experts. “From what I see and hear from these individuals, there is a lack of coordination/continuity between various assistance groups and agencies, which is the focus of the group now meeting to explore this issue.”