Chicago Sun-Times: What’s really going on in the 46th Ward?

CCH’s Letter to the Editor

Chicago Ald. James Cappleman writes (“Actively helping homeless,” April 2) that he disagrees with the “approach that the best way to help the homeless is to simply leave them alone.” Pointing out that he worked as a social worker, the Uptown alderman writes that he “will never give up on anyone in need” and “will do everything I can to help this population and the social service providers who dedicate their lives to serving them.” This sounds nice, but let’s clarify what’s going on in Cappleman’s 46th Ward — all of it recently covered by columnist Mark Brown’s impressive reporting.

Cappleman has introduced a city ordinance that would shut down the last two cubicle hotels in Chicago, including the Wilson Men’s Hotel in his ward. If these up-to-code buildings were closed, 325 men would be left scrambling to find other places to live for $300 a month. Cappleman has blamed the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless for scaring the men. But men who live at the Wilson & South Loop’s Ewing Annex Hotel told our organizers, and later Brown, that they worry they will end up homeless again.

Days after those articles ran, Cappleman met with the Salvation Army to tell it to pull its soup truck out of his ward because it attracts homeless people. As that move blew up in his face — with thousands of readers sharing Brown’s column — the alderman claimed 36 hours later that he was misunderstood and never told the truck to leave. Three hundred people picketed outside the alderman’s office to protest any effort to expel the Salvation Army. At the same time, Cappleman has refused to identify the developer with which his office is working on the overhaul of the Chateau Hotel. The low-rent hotel faced numerous building code issues, was sold, and the new owner is now evicting up to 75 remaining tenants. Residents have told Brown and other reporters that they are not sure where they can move on meager budgets. None reported being helped by the alderman’s office.

And a week after Brown profiled some of the homeless people who slept under the Lake Shore Drive/Wilson Avenue viaduct, they were rousted in the middle of the night, their blankets and belongings thrown away. People were shooed away into the night; no one was taken to a shelter as is usual city practice. In a follow-up article, Brown noted that the alderman says he was completely unaware of what was undertaken by police and a Streets & Sanitation crew working in his own ward.

Cappleman’s record speaks for itself. If humanitarian testimonials are in order, they would mean something if they came from the alderman’s needy constituents or those that work with poor people, not the alderman himself.

Edward Shurna, Executive Director

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless