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Actively helping homeless

Chicago Ald. James Cappleman  (46th)

Chicago Ald. James Cappleman (46th)

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Updated: May 3, 2013 6:13AM

I want to respond to Mark Brown’s columns on chronic homelessness in Uptown. First off, I want to thank him for bringing to light this population that often gets ignored and is without a voice. However, as a social worker for over 20 years and as the 46th Ward alderman, I must disagree with his approach that the best way to help the homeless is to simply leave them alone.

We have a responsibility to this vulnerable population. With tightening budgets in all levels of government, we must devise a plan that will continue to help and serve them in an effective manner. HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan reports that it costs taxpayers $40,000 a year for each homeless person who remains on the streets. The 2009 study “Where We Sleep: The Costs of Housing and Homelessness in Los Angeles,” by Daniel Flaming, found the average cost went up to over $60,000 if the homeless individual was an older adult with substance abuse and mental illness.

Julie Hamos, director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, is trying to rescue the state’s Medicaid program by closing a $2.7 billion budget gap. Her first step has been to house the chronically homeless and provide wrap-around services. This move alone drops their normal Medicaid expenses by two-thirds, saving the state tens of millions of dollars each year and saving individuals from dying on the streets by getting them the help they deserve.

Chicago’s new 2.0 Plan to address homelessness is an excellent start in shoring up the best methods on supporting the chronically homeless. It will provide incentives for social services to coordinate their care so that they can become more effective. This will save on costs while also striving to provide the best care.

Let me be clear: I will never give up on anyone in need. By holding social service summits, by continuing outreach to the homeless in the parks, I will do everything I can to help this population and the social service providers who dedicate their lives to serving them. The results may not produce a sexy story, but a public servant’s job is about being an advocate for anyone in need, no matter what their life’s circumstances happen to be. Who’s to say that Jack King would not be alive today had we gotten him off the streets with wrap-around services? As a commitment to Jack’s memory and all residents in the 46th Ward, I won’t ever give up on them.

Ald. James Cappleman, LCSW

46th Ward

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