DNAinfo.com Chicago: Youth homeless shelter ripped by neighbors

By Serena Dai

LAKEVIEW — More than 50 residents demanded that a local homeless shelter for youths control its clients, blaming a dwindling sense of security and a recent SWAT team standoff on the facility.

The Crib, a shelter for 18- to 24-year-olds, has been run by nonprofit The Night Ministry since 2011 at the Lake View Lutheran Church, 835 W. Addison St. The 20-bed service went from seasonal to year-round this year.

Previously, the church hosted a men’s homeless shelter, said Ald. Tom Tunney (44th).

Area residents said the youths are more trouble. The ones who don’t get into the shelter violate the area’s sense of security by fighting in the parking lot, sleeping on porches and banging on doors, neighbors said.

A recent standoff with a SWAT team was blamed on The Crib, though Sgt. Jason Clark said it was unclear whether the suspect ever stayed at the shelter.

“If you ask for a show of hands here, about how many of us feel safe with them there, you’ll get a zero show of hands,” said a woman who lives on nearby Reta Avenue. “You gotta get them under control.”

Tunney, the Night Ministry, police and residents have been meeting for months to find solutions, with residents saying they don’t see results.

Neighbors said they’ve been asking The Crib to end smoke breaks (to prevent clients from leaving at night); to hire professional security (instead of volunteers); and to keep the lottery process for selecting who gets a bed indoors instead of in the church parking lot.

The Night Ministry has said it moved the bed selection process inside, but neighbors said they still hear and see it happening outdoors.

“It’s very simple, very specific asks,” another female neighbor said. “I don’t think it would take a lot to make this happen. I don’t understand why it’s taking two years.”

Though the gathering was intended to find solution, the meeting was emotionally charged and contentious.

The Crib’s new assistant coordinator, Billy Dee, was in tears near the end of the two-hour meeting as she defended the shelter’s clients. The youth, who are frequently victims of sexual abuse, trauma and violence, often do not have any other place to go, she said.

 Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) talks to Lakeview residents Monday about The Crib, a homeless shelter for youths run by The Night Ministry.

Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) talks to Lakeview residents Monday about The Crib, a homeless shelter for youths run by The Night Ministry. View Full Caption

DNAinfo/Serena Dai

In 2012, the city had only 266 beds for thousands of homeless youths, according to estimates from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. Other neighborhoods, including North Lawndale, Logan Square and Englewood, also house shelters.

“This has been very painful for me to hear you guys speaking of young people who I love … love,” Dee said. “I do not want anyone to be afraid in their homes, but I just need to express that we’re talking about a lot of humans trying to inhabit a shared space.”

Residents also said they wanted doors closed to guests after 9 p.m. and for the shelter to ban guests who misbehave. The Night Ministry representatives agreed to respond with an action plan in two weeks after smaller meetings with the rest of the staff, police and the alderman’s office.

The city could cut funding to The Crib if it does not fit in the neighborhood, and “disrespectful behavior” cannot be tolerated, Tunney said. But the alderman sees the need for beds in Lakeview, where LGBT youth often flock because of the neighborhood’s “welcoming” nature and safer environment, he said.

“I believe working with the police and working with groups like this can be constructive,” he said. “I believe we can solve problems for people who really don’t have hope.”